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Tested: The Best Tactical Knives for EDC

  • May 28, 2024
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Tested: The Best Tactical Knives for EDC

While, typically speaking, EDC knives are usually carried for their utility and general day-to-day use, these same blades can also serve as effective close-quarter-combat weapons. And while most EDC-friendly knives lean more towards one end of the weapon-to-tool spectrum, there does exist a small handful of models that manage to deliver in both of these areas — and do so in spades. We’re talking, of course, about tactical blades — the latest and greatest of which we’ve gotten hands-on with for this in-depth buyers guide to and review of the best tactical knives for everyday carry. 

The Best Tactical EDC Knives

Selection & Testing

There are dozens and dozens of everyday carry knives that lend themselves to tactical use. So, when we set out to uncover the best the market currently has to offer, we began our search by first making a list of criteria that would be used to judge each potential entry. This included looking at each knife’s overall design, CQC-specific features, handle construction, overall length, and blade steel, blade shape, and blade dimensions. In the case of folding knives, we also looked at deployment and locking mechanism, while we also reviewed sheath and mounting options when looking at fixed blade options. Using these characteristics to guide our search, we were then able to generate a shortlist of candidates that we suspected may represent some of the very best EDC-ready tactical knives that money can buy.

While poring over spec sheets and product descriptions can be fairly informative, the only way to really get a complete understanding of each knife’s overall performance and user experience is to actually get hands-on with it — so, that’s exactly what we did; managing to track down a sample of each and every knife on our shortlist before individually putting each one through its paces. In order to more effectively judge the performance and capabilities of each knife on our shortlist, we put each one through a battery of standardized tests, including a paper-cutting tests to judge each knife’s factory edge, a stabbing test using a stuffed cardboard box in order to determine how each performs in a full-tilt CQC scenario, and a hard-use test that involved slicing through several layers of stacked cardboard in order to learn about each blade’s workhorse capabilities. 

Our extensive hands-on testing phase also saw each knife on our shortlist take a turn in my everyday carry rotation for several days, as this provided a much more complete sense of what it’s like to carry and live with each selection. What’s more, our hands-on testing also allowed us to more thoroughly scrutinize other minor areas that can only be gleaned through hands-on use, such as ergonomics and grip, and overall craftsmanship and build quality. After reviewing and testing each knife individually and then comparing and contrasting them side-by-side, we were then able to use the information from our hands-on testing in order to narrow our initial shortlist down to a final list of what we found to be the very best tactical knives for everyday carry. 

Kershaw x Emerson CQC-7

Pros
  • Affords terrific bang-for-your-buck
  • Equipped w/ Emerson Wave opener
  • Offers stellar mix of self-defense & workhorse capabilities
  • Has excellent ergonomics held regularly or in reverse grip
  • Great build quality for the price
Cons
  • Uses budget materials
  • Would benefit from thicker blade

Best Budget Pick: Designed by Ernie Emerson and now mass-produced by Kershaw, the CQC-7 is something of unicorn knife in the sense that it does something that exceedingly few other blades do; it offers a level of durability and deadliness that make it an effective CQC weapon that you can trust with your life, while coming at a ridiculously accessible price point. Spanning 7.75” overall, the Kershaw x Emerson CQC-7 is constructed around a frame-locking stainless steel handle and liner that’s fitted with a grippy G-10 scale on its show side. Mated to the handle is a 3.25” 8Cr14MoV Tanto blade that’s deployed via a thumb-disc setup — or using the knife’s Emerson Wave Opener, though more on that later. 

The Good

As a Chinese-made knife being sold at such a low price point, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of craftsmanship or build quality, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the CQC-7’s construction and fit and finish is actually pretty on point, and far exceeded my expectations. Additionally, I was even more blown away by the factory edge on this knife, as it diced through paper effortlessly, and was actually sharper than two of the other knives on this list — despite those knives costing four and six-times as much as the CQC-7. The knife also faired extremely well in the stab test, as the shape and contours of the handle provide a super secure grip that resulted in the knife not moving around when I stabbed and thrusted — whether held normally or in a reverse grip, and whether handled barehanded or with gloves. 

Another major highlight on this knife is no doubt the Emerson Wave opener. Simple in its design yet brilliant in its operation, this system consists of a small wave-shaped tab at the base of the blade’s spine. By pushing the knife up against the outside edge of your pocket when removing it, this little wave-shaped tab catches on the outer edge of the pant pocket and automatically opens the blade so it snaps into place as soon as it’s drawn, no additional input required. Though it does take a tiny bit of getting used to, it quickly became my favorite feature on this knife — and instantly sold me on adding a Wave Opener-equipped model to my personal collection. And, though it’s a very small detail, I nonetheless like how the stonewashed blade finish hides scratches and scuffs from daily use really well. 

Supplementary Strengths

A major part of what makes this knife so special is its material selection. Its combination of stainless steel, G-10, and 8Cr14MoV result in a super hardwearing knife that, while not as lightweight as titanium or aluminum, is no less durable. These materials are also used to bring an absolutely stellar Ernie Emerson design to life — all of which adds up to a super effective CQC weapon and everyday carry tool. I also applaud Ernie Emerson for selecting a Tanto blade shape, as it allows the knife to be thoroughly utilitarian, while its heavily-reinforced triangular tip also makes it perfect for piercing and slashing in a CQC scenario. With its sub-$50 price, it undoubtedly offers some of, if not the greatest bang-for-your-buck of any tactical EDC knife (with true combat-readiness at least). 

The Not So Good

The CQC-7 is fairly heavy at 5.09oz — making it heavier than Microtech’s Combat Troodon OTF. In fact, it’s the heaviest knife on this entire list (despite being the second-shortest on this list). In fact, it’s the heaviest knife on this entire list —though this is no doubt owed to its use of stainless steel for the handle, which also plays a pivotal role in Kershaw’s ability to deliver a genuinely combat-ready knife at this price. It’s not just the stainless steel, as practically every material used on this knife is of the budget variety — though again, price point. Moving on from the materials, I also found the blade’s opening action seriously left something to be desired, as I typically hard to supplement flipping out the thumb-discs with a little flick of the wrist in order to get the framelock to lock up. This knife would also no doubt benefit from a slightly thicker blade. Sure, 0.110” may be fine for an auto, but for a manual folder, I’d like to see a beefier spec here. 

Verdict: Equipped with Emerson’s Wave Opener, the Kershaw x Emerson CQC-7 is the seldom-seen combination of a combat-ready knife that you can trust with your life, and purchase for less than $50 — almost certainly making it the most affordable and most value-laden tactical EDC knife on the market.

Type: Folding Knife
Overall Length: 7.75”
Blade Shape: Tanto
Blade Length: 3.25”
Blade Thickness: 0.110”
Blade Steel: 8Cr14MoV
Handle Material: G-10 & Stainless Steel
Lock Type Or Sheath: Framelock
Weight: 5.09oz
Manufacturing Origin: China

LionSteel L.E.One

Pros
  • Offers great value all-things-considered
  • Integral design sees entire handle milled from solid block of aluminum billet
  • Has 4 opening methods
  • Equipped w/ super premium MagnaCut blade
  • Engineered specifically for law enforcement & military personnel
Cons
  • Sharpness of factory edge leaves something to be desired
  • Will feel awkward in smaller hands

Best Karambit Pick: Developed specifically for military, law enforcement, and first responders, the aptly-named LionSteel L.E.One is an Italian-made tactical Karambit knife that boasts a laundry-list of highlights and noteworthy features. Born out of a collaboration between LionSteel and Emerson Knives, the L.E.One features a handle that’s been machined from a single piece of aluminum. No back-spacers, slabs, or scales, just a single block of billet that’s been machined down to form — and fitted with an integrated framelock mechanism. Measuring 8.25” overall, the knife also sports a 3.25” hawkbill blade with a reinforced tip and a top-shelf CPM MagnaCut construction. 

The Good

One major highlight on the L.E.One is that it features four different blade-deployment options, giving you a myriad of choices and easy ways to open the blade when in the heat of a CQC situation. It can be deployed using its main rear flipper tab, its front flipper tab, its thumb-hole opener, or its Emerson Wave opener — the same item found on the CQC-7 below. By pressing the knife against the outer edge of your pocket when removing it, the Wave Opener automatically opens the blade — a ridiculously cool feature (and party trick). And, while I don’t think it’s the most useful feature, the L.E.One’s rear flipper tab is removable — a detail found on several LionSteel knives that’s designed to let you remove the tab in regions where flipper knives aren’t legally permitted. 

Because the shape of the handle and finger hole together provide so much grip and leverage, the hawkbill blade was able to easily sink into the material during our stab test —though the thing proved itself to be even more effective at slashing, thanks to not only the shape of the blade, but also its heavily-reinforced tip design. The MagnaCut blade’s edge was decently sharp, but was a little disappointing, as it didn’t measure up to other Italian knives I own from MKM, GiantMouse, and even LionSteel themselves. Hell, even Kershaw’s budget-friendly CQC-7’s 8Cr14MoV blade had a sharper factory edge — though it admittedly won’t last anywhere near as long as the L.E.One’s MagnaCut item.

Supplementary Strengths

While I love that this knife uses an integral design, I’m just as taken with the fact that it comes steeled in revolutionary CPM MagnaCut — a truly game-changing powder metallurgy blade steel that offers both easyiharpening and insane levels of corrosion-resistance and edge-retention. In typical LionSteel fashion, the Italian craftsmanship and build quality is fantastic. While I wouldn’t call it hawkbill blade conducive to everyday carry tasks, I will acknowledge that it had no problem cutting rope, slicing open boxes, and performing 95% of my normal day-to-day cutting tasks. The action on the knife is also buttery smooth and feels perfectly-dialed in. I also appreciate how the pivot sits beneath a custom LionSteel-logoed pivot collar on its non-show-side. And, when you consider its Italian craftsmanship, full integral design, and MagnaCut construction, it actually offers pretty phenomenal value, too. 

The Not So Good

As much as I genuinely loved using this knife, it isn’t without a few issues. LionSteel’s L.E.One was developed for day-to-day tasks and use, it just so happens to be the tasks and uses of your average cop or solider. And, while it’s a bit aggressive for EDC and on the larger end of the spectrum in terms of what you’d normally want for everyday carry, these same qualities also make it a highly-effective — and highly-deadly — CQC and self-defense weapon. 

Next, the integral design is no doubt insanely cool, though doesn’t add a ton of benefits from a performance standpoint. And, like pretty much all integral knives, the L.E.One is on the heavier side, tipping the scales at a not-so-svelte 4.8oz. This is by no means unacceptable for everyday carry, but it’s for sure a hefty one. Lastly, I was also a little surprised by both the size of the knife and the size of the handle. Though it still afforded me with solid ergonomics and grip, the handle is just a bit too large for my hand, and will no doubt feel awkward when carried by those with smaller hands. Having said that, the handle was perfectly sized for my hand when wearing tactical gloves. 

Verdict: Boasting four different deployment methods, the LionSteel L.E.One is a deadly Karambit with a single-piece integral aluminum handle as a MagnaCut hawkbill blade. As far as EDC-ready Karambits go, it doesn’t get much better than this. 

Type: Integral Karambit
Overall Length: 8.25”
Blade Shape: Hawkbill
Blade Length: 3.25”
Blade Thickness: 0.120”
Blade Steel: CPM MagnaCut
Handle Material: Aluminum
Lock Type Or Sheath: Framelock
Weight: 4.8oz
Manufacturing Origin: Italy

Spyderco Para Military 2

Pros
  • One of the most legendary EDC knives of all time
  • Features absolutely-stellar ergonomics
  • Offers the ultimate/unparalleled mix of utility & combat readiness
  • Benefits from excellent craftsmanship & materials
  • Can be customized via huge array of aftermarket upgrades
  • Also sold in more compact & EDC-friendly PM3 version
Cons
  • Is on the larger side for EDC

Best Folder: Though it’s now been on the market for a decade-and-a-half, the Spyderco Para Military 2 remains one of the most lauded and legendary everyday carry knives of all time. Made in America, the Para Military 2 affords an unparalleled amalgamation of combat-readiness and day-to-day utility — resulting in what’s also unquestionably one of the very best tactical EDC knives that money can buy. Also known as the “PM2,” this tactical folder spans just over 8.25” and features a compression lock-equipped stainless steel handle cloaked in grippy G-10 scales. The handle comes paired with a  thumb-hole-opener-deployed 3.45” leaf-shaped blade that’s forged in top-shelf CPM S45VN. 

The Good

The immense success of the PM2 is largely owed to its tactical design. The leaf-shaped blade boasts a reinforced tip and lends itself incredibly well to both piercing and slashing. Thanks to a ridiculously-calculated handle design, the PM2 affords tremendous grip and has an ergonomic setup that provides a ton of confidence, whether taking on hard-use EDC tasks or being used in close-quarter combat. As such, it probably won’t come as a surprise that the PM2 performed the best out of every knife on this list in the stabbing test — finishing second only to the Microtech Combat Troodon Gen III. At 0.145”, the blade is also beefy and incredibly strong, though is still thin enough to easily slice and dice through various materials. 

And, even though the design is almost 15-years-old, Spyderco has managed to keep the Para Military 2 modern and up-to-date by regularly updating its blade steel — with the PM2’s latest blade construction being cutting-edge CPM S45VN. This is a noticeable step up from the S30V used on the older iteration of the PM2 that I personally own (and very often carry). Also benefitting from the use of S45VN, the PM2’s factory edge is also just superb, allowing it to effortlessly slice through everything from paper to cardboard to rope. I also really appreciate how this knife boasts a slew of Spyderco’s hallmark features and design traits, from its signature leaf-shaped blade to its thumb-hole opening to its proprietary compression lock.

Supplementary Strengths

The price of this knife also includes a lifetime warranty that sees Spyderco really go above and beyond for its customers, and will even sharpen knives if sent back to the factory for a very small fee. What’s more, I actually purchased my first PM2 from someone that had dropped theirs and broken off the tip. They simply sent it back to the factory, where the blade was reshaped, reground, resharpened, and then returned — before later being sold to me. And, while this just boils down to my own personal taste, I absolutely love the completely and totally blacked-out finish on this PM2 variant, as everything from the handle scales to the blade to the pocket clip to the hardware have been fully blacked-out. 

Another one of my favorite aspects of this knife is the fact that its immense and continued success and popularity have ultimately given way to an absolutely enormous slew of available aftermarket upgrades and components, from handle scales to hardware sets to back-spacers to lanyard tubes to pocket clips to even custom blades. This allows for a huge number of options to customize and personalize your PM2 — my personal blade collection includes a custom PM2 that currently wears a set of custom Flytanium Lotus Micarta scales and a knurled titanium back-spacer. The PM2 also no doubt benefits from some fantastic craftsmanship and build quality. 

The Not So Good

While Spyderco’s Para Military 2 is just about as close as a tactical EDC knife can get to being perfect, it’s not without a few minor issues here and there. As far as everyday carry knives go, the PM2 is pretty large, with an overall length of 8.26” — though it’s worth pointing out that Spyderco makes the smaller yet extremely similar Para Military 3 that clocks in at a more compact 7.27” overall. Moving on, its design is also rather aggressive for daily-carrying. These are my only real gripes with this otherwise stellar everyday carry option. 

Verdict: The Spyderco Para Military is a legendary USA-made EDC knife that delivers an impressive level of day-to-day utility and combat-readiness — making it something of an obvious go-to choice for anyone that can swing its price.

Type: Tactical Folder
Overall Length: 8.26”
Blade Shape: Leaf
Blade Length: 3.45”
Blade Thickness: 0.145”
Blade Steel: CPM S45VN
Handle Material: G-10
Lock Type Or Sheath: Compression Lock
Weight: 3.75oz
Manufacturing Origin: USA

Toor Knives Jank Shank S

Pros
  • Made by hand in America from premium materials
  • Super easy to conceal & draw
  • Handle, jimping sections, & finger hole collectively offer tremendous grip & control
  • Insanely versatile blade shape & design
  • Ships w/ excellent, ultra-compact KYDEX sheath that affords myriad of mounting options
  • Decidedly beefy blade makes it perfect for combat & hard-use work tasks
Cons
  • Factory edge left a bit to be desired
  • Expensive price

Best Fixed-Blade Pick: Sporting an ultra-pokey Wharncliffe profile, the original Jank Shank has long been one of Toor Knives’ most popular EDC fixed blades. After several years on the market — and several minor tweaks — the boutique veteran-owned and operated outfit has decided to debut a more versatile and utilitarian version of the fixed blade with the new Toor Knives Jank Shank S. Constructed around a beefy 0.1875-inch-thick CPM M4 full-tang construction that culminates in a 3.0-inch drop point profile, the Jank Shank S boasts a milled G-10 handle set with a deep grip-bolstering groove pattern and a finger hole integrated into the bottom of the tang. Weighing in at only 3.6oz, the knife spans 7.0” overall, making it fairly compact, yet still big enough to be a true workhorse and/or effective CQC weapon. 

The Good

Though it’s got a beefy blade, Toor’s Jank Shank S is still a very low-profile knife, making it super easy to conceal, and providing it with a ton of options for carrying or concealment, from in a pocket to inside the waistband to scout carry on a belt, just to name but a few of its potential mounting points. This is also no doubt partially owed to the excellent duo-tone KYDEX sheath that the knife ships with, as the thing offers great retention, despite being incredibly small. 

At just 3.6oz in weight and 7.0” in length, this fixed blade is actually small enough to be used as a neck knife too — plus its ergonomic handle design and finger hole make it insanely easy to grab off of a necklace from beneath your shirt. Between the finger hole, finger guard just ahead of the cutting edge, and dual jimping sections on the spine, it affords an insane amount of grip, affording complete and total confidence when stabbing. When paired with the ever-so-slightly-clipped profile of the drop point blade, the thing scored very highly in the stab test. I also found that when held at a slight angle, the Jank Shank S’ finger hole can double as an effective, less-lethal striking weapon option — another minor detail that really jumped out at me during testing.

Because it boasts a blade thickness of 0.1875”, the Jank Shank S can also handle even the most intensive and hardcore workhorse tasks, including being hammered through logs or pieces of wood. It’s ample thickness also means that it will have absolutely no problem standing up to the unparalleled rigors of close-quarter-combat without snapping, breaking, or otherwise failing. And, like all Toor knives, the Jank Shank S benefits from super meticulous build quality thanks to being carefully crafted by hand in San Diego by a team of skilled artisans using state-of-the-art equipment and some of the finest materials that money can buy.

Supplementary Strengths

The Jank Shank S is the latest step in Toor’s evolutionary chain of ever-more capable everyday carry fixed blades. While I’ve been a massive fan — and regular carrier — of the Toor Viper and the original Jank Shank (now known as the Jank Shank W) the former’s short 2.625-inch-long blade leaves something to be desired in terms of utility, while the latter’s super-pokey Wharncliffe profile is much more geared towards combat rather than utility. And this is a huge part of what makes the Jank Shank S so special, is that it offers a perfect balance between the two, with a S-spec’s 3.0” drop point silhouette being perfect for day-to-day EDC tasks while still lending itself to CQC use. This profile also makes the knife tremendously versatile, with the thing also being super conducive to everything from camping to hunting to being used as a boot knife.

And, though it doesn’t impact performance or its day-to-day user experience, I nonetheless appreciate that this knife — like all Toor knives — comes in super premium packaging that includes a Toor-logoed microfiber cloth, a sticker, and a tube of Frog Lube. I always like when more premium products really consider the complete user experience down to even the packaging — something Toor does incredibly well in my opinion. At the end of the day, the Toor Knives Jank Shank S is a true EDC-able fixed blade that’s also combat-ready  through and through.

The Not So Good

Though Toor has managed to deliver a truly outstanding knife with the Jank Shank S, it does possess a few small downsides. First off, despite being a relatively small knife, it has a pretty large price tag — albeit a completely justifiable one in my opinion. Second, and more importantly, the Jank Shank S was by far the dullest Toor blade I’ve ever used. The boutique knife-maker sets very high standards across the board, so even though it was the least sharp Toor knife I’ve used, it’s still decently sharp. With that said, I was still a little disappointed here. These minor gripes are admittedly massively outweighed by everything else the Jank Shank S has going for it — which is quite a lot.

Verdict: Something of the ultimate tactical everyday carry fixed blade, the Toor Knives Jank Shank S is a compact, easily-concealable, quick-draw-able knife with a beefy full-tang construction and the ability to excel at both utilitarian tasks and close-quarter-combat use alike. The thing is also made in America and boasts absolutely stellar craftsmanship and fit and finish.

Type: Fixed Blade
Overall Length: 7.0”
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 3.0”
Blade Thickness: 0.1875″
Blade Steel: CPM M4
Handle Material: G-10
Lock Type Or Sheath: KYDEX
Weight: 3.6oz
Manufacturing Origin: USA

Benchmade 9400 Auto Osborne

Pros
  • Auto-version of ultra-popular tactically-inspired EDC knife
  • Maintains exact dimensions of original 940 Osborne
  • Benefits from top-shelf craftsmanship
  • Ultra-snappy, well-tuned auto firing mechanism
  • Super-matte handle looks & feels great
  • Price includes lifetime warranty & Benchmade LifeSharp service
Cons
  • Illegal to carry in some regions
  • Didn’t perform as well as others in stab test
  • Expensive price

Best Auto Pick: Originally released around the turn of the millennium, the Benchmade 940 Osborne is unequivocally one of the most revered EDC knives in history. After two-decades on the market, Benchmade returned to the drawing board in order to deliver an even more tactical, automatic version of this legendary folder. Known as the Benchmade 9400 Auto Osborne, this EDC-friendly auto knife consists of an ergonomically-shaped handle that’s been precision-machined from a block of aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum before being fortified via an anodized finish. In place of the regular 940’s AXIS lock, the 9400 boasts a button-lock that automatically deploys the blade (and unlocks it). Just like the manual 940-spec, the auto-firing 9400 sports an overall length of 7.87” and a black oxide-finished reverse Tanto blade with a 3.40” length and a premium CPM S30V construction. 

The Good

I’ve had the privilege of both testing and owning a substantial number of Benchmade knives over the years and, alongside the use of premium materials and top-notch craftsmanship, I’ve also come to expect ridiculously sharp factory edges from the Pacific Northwest knife-maker. And in this regard, the 9400 delivers in spades, with what can only be described as a truly razor-sharp edge. 

In fact, the Auto Osborne received super high marks across the board — save for one area, and that was the stab test. The aluminum-scaled handle set is no doubt ergonomic and provides enough grip for hard-use tasks, it was just a bit lacking when being thrust into an object — not so much that my hand ever slipped down onto the blade, it just didn’t feel as secure as other knives on this list that I tested like the Toor Jank Shank S, Spyderco PM2, or even Microtech Combat Troodon Gen III. 

The 9400 also benefits from a super snappy auto-opening action that’s perfectly dialed-in, allowing for lightning-fast deployment without it feeling like it wants to jump out of my hand. I also applaud the Oregon City outfit for equipping the Auto Osborne with a side-arm-style safety switch on spine to prevent accidental deployment. I also really appreciate how Benchmade has given the 9400 a circular firing/lock button with a trio of concentric circles — a look that mimics the motif of the AXIS lock-bar. In total, the 9400 tips the scales at only 2.65oz —making it 0.25oz lighter than the manual-opening 940-spec. 

Supplementary Strengths

With an MSRP starting at $300, the Benchmade 9400 Auto Osborne doesn’t come cheap. Based on its craftsmanship, it isn’t particularly difficult to justify its price — and that’s before you consider all you get for your three-bills. Alongside the knife itself, the price also includes a lifetime warranty, and Benchmade’s LifeSharp service, which will clean, sharpen, lubricate, and tune your knife for free, for life — you just have to pay for postage. This not only practically guarantees a lifetime of use, but it also ensures that the knife’s performance will remain optimal at all times. 

One aspect of this knife that caught me by surprise was its handle finish. The Auto Osborne sports a super matte forest green-anodized handle that’s somehow both smooth and grippy at the same time. It also boasts what I can only describe as an unmistakably premium feel and fit and finish to it. Personally, I actually really like the purple-anodized jimped back-spacer, as I feel it wonderfully contrasts the matte dark green handle and black oxide-finished blade — though I imagine not everyone will share my proclivity for this purple accent detail. 

The Not So Good

There were a few very minor aspects of Benchmade’s 9400 Auto Osborne that I wasn’t particularly fond of — though these gripes are admittedly few and far between. For starters, while I think the AXIS-inspired firing button is a really cool touch from an aesthetic standpoint, I honestly still wish it used the more tactical, grippier waffle-pattern button on Benchmade’s Claymore auto folders. Next, at just  0.115”, this auto model would no doubt benefit from a thicker, beefier blade construction —plus I wouldn’t mind Benchmade taking a page out of the Spyderco playbook and updating the 9400 with an S45VN blade steel. 

Next, while I don’t actually think it’s all that difficult to justify, there’s no getting around the fact that $300 is a lot to spend on a pocket knife — though purchasing a knife you can trust with your life in CQC scenarios isn’t a place you want to skimp on. Finally, while we can’t fault Benchmade for this one, it’s nonetheless unfortunate that the 9400 — like most autos and OTFs with blades spanning more than 2” in length — can’t legally be carried in many locales, including California where HICONSUMPTION is based. Additionally — and while I can’t fault Benchmade for this either — it’s unfortunate that none of the massive array of aftermarket items for the manual-opening 940 Osborne or 945 Mini Osborne are compatible with the 9400 auto variant. 

Verdict: Meticulously-crafted in America, the Benchmade 9400 Auto Osborne sees an already-legendary tactical everyday carry knife bestows it with an ultra-snappy auto-firing mechanism — making for an even more tactical everyday carry option. 

Type: Auto Folder
Overall Length: 7.87”
Blade Shape: Reverse Tanto
Blade Length: 3.40”
Blade Thickness: 0.115”
Blade Steel: CPM S30V
Handle Material: Aluminum
Lock Type Or Sheath: Button Lock
Weight: 2.65oz
Manufacturing Origin: USA

Microtech Combat Troodon Gen III

Pros
  • Boasts a ridiculous level of build quality that’s in a league of its own
  • Equipped w/ insanely sharp factory edge
  • Double-edge partially-serrated blade allows for excellent piercing & stabbing abilities
  • Still plenty capable of handling most EDC tasks
  • Super fidget-friendly
  • Has billet titanium pocket clip w/ embedded silicon-carbide ball
  • Every part of knife is designed & made in house, down to the hardware
Cons
  • Very expensive price
  • Very large & aggressive for EDC
  • Illegal to carry in some regions

Best OTF Pick: Benefitting from numerous noteworthy updates, the Microtech Combat Troodon Gen III is the latest iteration of a legendary combat-ready automatic out-the-front knife. Named after a small but aggressive theropod dinosaur, this USA-made OTF is pieced together around an aluminum handle that houses an ultra-snappy 4.00-inch-long, 0.125-inch-thick, partially-serrated double-edge dagger blade forged in top-shelf M390MK — a proprietary version of M390 co-developed by Böhler and Microtech. Spanning a whopping 9.375″ overall, this over-sized OTF features one of Microtech’s stepped X-ramp thumb-sliders, and a billet titanium pocket clip with an embedded silicon-carbide ball. While pretty much all of Microtech’s OTFs lend themselves pretty well to self-defense and CQC use, the Combat Troodon takes this already-impressive level of combat-readiness and cranks it up quite a few notches.

The Good

The knife benefits from a new double-spring “Dual Fuel” drivetrain system that allows for even smoother blade deployment, and redesigning the already-stellar internal firing mechanism and presumably the blade’s track has also resulted in extremely little play in the blade when extended — an almost unheard-of feat for an auto out-the-front knife. In classic Microtech fashion, the mechanism also benefits from a proprietary setup that allows the firing spring to remain at rest whether the blade is open or closed, thereby hugely mitigating wear on the firing mechanism’s components — a Microtech staple that debuted on the flagship  Ultratech. What’s more, the stepped X thumb-slider now rides above a track lined with small diagonal cutouts that Microtech calls a “crud cutter,” which provides an area for dirt, dust, grime, pocket lint, and other debris to get displaced, allowing the thumb-slider to smoothly travel within the button pocket. Pieced together using a combination of T8 and T30 Torx screws, the knife boasts new machining lines on the front and back of the body, while retaining the prior gen’s side jimping sections. 

Though it’s clearly much more geared towards self-defense use than it is everyday carry applications, I still had no problem with any of my usual tasks when using Microtech’s Combat Troodon Gen III —plus I actually had more fun using it, as it’s just really enjoyable to open and close the blade on this thing. It’s legitimately capable of hard-use work tasks too. Hell, if it was one of the single-edged blade variants, the thing could probably be used to hammer-split logs. The action of the automatic blade deployment is super snappy, and is shockingly fidget-friendly. As this knife was passed around at HICONSUMPTION HQ, I spent several weeks listening to the sound of coworkers repeatedly firing it off and opening and closing the blade while sat at their desks. 

Between the fantastic handle ergonomics and the legitimately deadly partially-serrated dual-edge blade, the Combat Troodon Gen III is undoubtedly a highly-effective CQC weapon. Even the mere sound of its being opened is fairly intimidating and could serve as a major deterrent for attackers on its own. No doubt bout it, the Combat Troodon Gen III is a truly combat-ready knife. Every new Microtech knife I’ve ever used has always come equipped with an almost irresponsibly sharp factory edge, and the third-generation Combat Troodon was no exception, arriving from the workshop with a ridiculously sharp, scalpel-like edge — and this is on both sides of the blade mind you. The serrated sections were just as impressive. 

Supplementary Strengths

Unsurprisingly, this helped the OTF perform phenomenally in our stabbing test, as it sank through stuffed cardboard with very little resistance — and did so better than any other knife I tested, other OTFs included. I own a Microtech MSI that I’ve carried daily for months at a time, so I have a decent amount of experience using Microtech and Böhler’s M390MK steel, and it really is stellar, easily being one of my favorite blade steels — only second to MagnaCut in my eyes. It just holds an edge ridiculously well, and does so for a surprisingly long time. Sure, it’s not the easiest to sharpen, the its performance, hardness, and edge retention make the more involved sharpening very worth it. 

The build quality on the third-gen Combat Troodon is straight-up off-the-charts. While brands like Benchmade and Spyderco admittedly produce beautifully-crafted American-made knives, Microtech’s overall build quality and fit and finish is on another level entirely. Every little detail is thoroughly considered and perfectly crafted. Even the OTF’s screws and hardware and machined entirely in-house. Put simply, it just feels really, really good. The variant I happened to select sports an almost-goldish coyote-colored anodization on the handle that has an unmistakably top-shelf look and feel to it, too. And, while it admittedly has zero impact on its user experience or how it performs, I nonetheless think it’s pretty cool that the Combat Troodon Gen III just happens to be the knife of choice of none other than John Wick — or rather an even newer, updated version of Wick’s go-to combat blade.  

While the Combat Troodon Gen III looks and feels great and performs even better, the knife is no doubt further elevated by its myriad of minor yet thoroughly premium details. For starters, its reversible pocket clip is precision-machined from a solid block of titanium and sports grip-enhancing jimping, an integrated lanyard hole, and an embedded silicon-carbide ball. Best of all, the design is still capped off with a glass-breaker tip. Unsurprisingly, the milled details on the knife look absolutely amazing too, from the perfect machining on the handle to the milled Microtech logo. As per usual, the ramped X-slider provides a ton of traction and grip, and quite frankly looks ridiculously cool. The crud cutter is also a pretty cool touch in my opinion, as, anyone that’s EDC’d an OTF is no doubt well aware of how often lint and pocket debris find their way into the thing’s button pocket. I also love how they managed to integrate the lanyard hole into the pocket clip (and handle), as it provides a space for those that want to use it, and keeps it out of the way for those like myself who aren’t into lanyards. 

The Not So Good

There were a few minor downsides to the Microtech Combat Troodon Gen III, and almost all of them stem from the knife being engineered much more for combat — as its name suggests — than EDC. First off, it’s illegal to carry in quite a few regions, which is a pretty major bummer. As such, you’re not even able to order it in some states. Second, at nearly 9.5-inches-long, the thing is pretty massive for EDC use (or is at the very least pretty overkill). Luckily, Microtech makes a wide range of OTFs including several markedly more compact options such as the UTX-85 and UTX-70 (essentially 85% and 70% scale versions of the Ultratech) that solve this issue. 

Third, not only is it quite large for EDC, it’s also extremely aggressive for an EDC knife —the partially-serrated double-edge dagger version even-more-so. Fourth, with an MSRP hovering around the $500, the knife is objectively expensive — though I actually think the materials and build quality actually make it fairly easy to justify its price, and that’s before even considering the enormous amount of R&D that went into the creation of this third-gen model. I also wished Microtech offered this gen-three model — or any of its OTFs (aside from part of the Glykon) — with a titanium handle option, though this is admittedly a purely personal and purely subjective gripe.

Verdict: The Microtech Combat Troodon Gen III is a cutting-edge automatic out-the-front knife that was engineered from the ground up to serve as the ultimate full-size combat-ready OTF — an objective that Microtech has absolutely nailed with the third-generation of this USA-made knife. 

Type: Auto OTF
Overall Length: 9.375″
Blade Shape: Double-Edged Dagger
Blade Length: 4.00”
Blade Thickness: 0.125”
Blade Steel: Böhler M390MK
Handle Material: Aluminum
Lock Type Or Sheath: Thumb-Slider
Weight: 5.02oz
Manufacturing Origin: USA

Tactical EDC Knife Comparison Chart

Knife Type Overall Length Blade Shape Blade Length Blade Thickness Blade Steel Handle Material Lock Type Or Sheath Weight Manufacturing Origin
Kershaw x Emerson CQC-7 Tactical Folder 7.75” Tanto 3.25” 0.110” 8Cr14MoV G-10 & Stainless Steel Framelock 5.09oz China
LionSteel L.E.One Integral Karambit 8.25” Hawkbill 3.25” 0.120” CPM MagnaCut Aluminum Framelock 4.8oz Italy
Spyderco Para Military 2 Tactical Folder 8.26” Leaf 3.45” 0.145” CPM S45VN G-10 Compression Lock 3.75oz USA
Toor Knives Jank Shank S Fixed Blade 7.0” Drop Point 3.0” 0.1875″ CPM M4 G-10 KYDEX 3.6oz USA
Benchmade 9400 Auto Osborne Auto Folder 7.87” Reverse Tanto 3.40” 0.115” CPM S30V Aluminum Button Lock 2.65oz USA
Microtech Combat Troodon Gen III Auto OTF 9.375″ Double-Edged Dagger 4.00” 0.125” Böhler M390MK Aluminum Thumb-Slider 5.02oz USA

What Exactly Is A Tactical EDC Knife?

Like its name suggests; a tactical everyday carry knife is a type of EDC knife that lends itself to both daily-carrying and self-defense and CQC use. This means that these knives need to be compact and pocketable enough to comfortably be carried day-in and day-out, while being large and robust enough to effectively serve in hand-to-hand combat scenarios. As such, these knives often borrow traits from larger combat knives, and fairly often boast CQC-specific features that make them even more conducive to self-defense use. Like any worthwhile everyday carry knife, tactical-specific EDC blades also need to excel at basic workhorse duties and day-to-day cutting tasks. What’s more, because you need to be able to trust one of these knives with your life, we recommend opting for more premium knives with more beefy, robust constructions, more high-end materials, and better build quality. These traits do come at a higher price, though are well worth it. 

What To Look For When Shopping?

There’s admittedly no shortage of areas one can take into account when buying a tactical EDC knife, though the reality is that there are roughly a dozen areas that trump all others in terms of importance — all of which we’ll be breaking down directly below in this condensed guide to what to look for when shopping for a tactical everyday carry knife. 

Knife Type: Tactical everyday carry knives come in all manner of different styles and genres, ranging from folders to Karambits to fixed blades to autos to OTFs. We recommend kicking of your search by first determining which style of knife will best suit your particular needs. It also often helps to think about intended use and applications when making this decision. 

Blade Steel: The overall hardness and toughness of a blade largely boils down to the type of blade steel (and heat treatment) used. More importantly, this area also determines how well a blade will hold an edge — making it a particularly crucial area to consider when shopping, as this one element often plays a major role in separating the more premium knives on the market from their cheaper counterparts. 

Blade Dimensions: Alongside its shape and steel, you’ll also want to consider the dimensions of the blade. While length is obviously important, you’re going to want to also pay special attention to blade thickness, as CQC use typically calls for beefier, more robust blades that won’t snap or break in the heat of close-quarter combat —something that cheaper, thinner knives are known to do. 

Blade Shape: A blade’s shape and profile will largely determine the types of tasks it will lend itself to, as some silhouettes are better for puncturing and piercing while others are better at cutting and slashing. We recommend considering your intended use when looking at this area. 

Overall Length: When dealing with any EDC knife, you’ll always want to consider overall size and length, though this is particularly important when dealing with tactical EDC blades, as we tend to gravitate towards larger knives for CQC and self-defense use. Consequently, you’ll want to find a blade that’s large enough to be an effective weapon, yet small and concealable enough to be used for everyday carry.

Handle Material: The material used to craft a knife’s handle will play a monumental role in the handle’s durability and grip — making this yet another crucial area to take into account before pulling the trigger on your purchase.

Ergonomics: In addition to the material a knife’s handle is made from, you’ll also want to review how said handle is shaped, as this ultimately determines a knife’s ergonomics. What’s more, in addition to a knife’s handle material, you’ll also want to examine the ergonomics of each handle when the knife is being reverse-carried (i.e. with the handle on top and the blade below). 

CQC Design Elements: Able to bolster a knife’s conduciveness to combat and self-defense, CQC-specific design features include items such as glass breakers or striking pommels and Karambit-style finger holes. When shopping in this space, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these features. 

Locking Mechanism: This is an element that only applies to fixed blades. In both workhorse and self-defense scenarios, you need your knife’s blade to remain locked and in place. As such, you’ll want to explore the type of locking mechanism used. Most folding knives feature button, liner, or frame locks, though some employ proprietary locks like Benchmade’s AXIS lock and Spyderco’s compression lock.  

Blade Deployment: This is another one that only applies to folding knives but it still crucial to mention. Because these knives need to be opened quickly in self-defense scenarios, it’s pivotal to review the means in which a blade on a folding knife can be deployed. This is usually achieved via a flipper tab, thumb-stud, or thumb-hole opening, though some knives feature multiple deployment means. What’s more, some knives benefit from proprietary deployment systems, such as the Emerson Wave opener.

Sheath: Though this only applies to fixed blade knives, you’ll want to look into the type of sheath that a tactical fixed blade EDC knife comes paired with, as this will not only determine carrying options, but will also play a major role in ease-of-deployment. For tactical use, we recommend limiting your search to fixed blades with a KYDEX sheath (or other hard sheaths). 

Hardware & Trim: The most important parts of a knife to consider are the handle and blade, though that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to smaller details such as the hardware, pocket clip, and back-spacer, just to name a few. They may sound like minor details, but when designed well, they really do have the ability to elevate a knife as a whole — making this yet another pivotal factor to review when shopping.

Conceal-Ability & Draw-Ability: Tactical EDC knives can give their carrier an edge by being concealable, thereby preventing outside observers from knowing that they’re armed. As a result, you’ll want to look at how low-profile each knife is, as this will determine how easy it is to conceal. Additionally, you’ll also want to review how easy it is to rapidly draw and deploy a tactical EDC knife, as quick-draw-ability is absolutely essential for any quality tac-blade. 

Weight: Just like with any EDC knife, you’ll want to consider the weight of any tactical everyday carry knife that you’re considering, as this element plays another role in determining each knife’s overall conduciveness to EDC use. 

Build Quality & Craftsmanship: It’s not just the materials used to construct a knife that matters, but also how how and how meticulously said materials have been pieced together. Because build quality, fit and finish, and craftsmanship can play such major roles in the knife’s overall quality and performance, we recommend paying special attention to this area. Knives that are made in America often boast better quality, too. 

Price & Value: Generally speaking, good knives aren’t cheap, and cheap knives aren’t good — and tactical EDC knives are no different in this regard. Because their carrier needs to be able to trust the knife with their life in CQC scenarios, we urge you to consider the more premium options on the market, as they tend to be much tougher. There are a select few tactical EDC knives that happen to offer fantastic bang-for-your-buck, but for the most part we gravitate towards more high-end options. 

Honorable Mentions

Sold with an included non-sharpened trainer version, the.Reate EXO-K is a wildly-unique folding knife design touted by its maker as a “gravity Karambit.” The EXO-K features a button-lock-equipped aluminum handle that’s mated to an N690 hawkbill blade via a second arm piece. This allows the blade to flick out, and then flick back down, locking into place. Not only does it make for a particularly effective and deadly CQC option, but just the mere sound and sight of the EXO-K being opened is fairly intimidating in and of itself — not unlike a butterfly knife. Because it’s geared much more towards self-defense than it is everyday carry, we’ve opted to give Reate’s gravity Karambit an honorable mention on this guide. 

Now mass-produced by Columbia River Knife and Tool as the CRKT Provoke, Joe Caswell’s morphing Karambit is unequivocally one of the most idiosyncratic knife designs in recent history. Due to the immense and continued popularity of the Provoke, CRKT opted to return to the drawing board and update the hawkbill-bladed Karambit with a more practical and utilitarian drop point profile. And while this new blade shape undoubtedly makes the thing more conducive to EDC, in now lacks much of the combat-readiness of the original —ultimately leading to use giving the CRKT Provoke EDC an honorable mention on this guide. 

Renowned for combining modern tactical design with decidedly premium, old-world handle constructions, Dagr & Nott is undoubtedly one of the best-kept secrets in the knife world, as this boutique brand churns out some of the best tactical blades on the planet — as thoroughly evidenced by the Dagr & Nott Hound. Born out of a collaboration between House Of Wolves and Dagr & Nott, the Hound spans 8.50” overall, and features a full-tang CPM MagnaCut construction that culminates in a super-pokey cutting-edge. Cloaked in a graphite black Cerakote finish, the Hound also features a textured G10 handle and a custom KYDEX sheath. Made in Colorado, this knife makes for both an excellent workhorse and a very effective CQC weapon. We ultimately selected Toor’s Jank Shank S over the Hound, but it’s nonetheless a great knife that performed wonderfully in testing. It’s also pretty similar to the original Toor Knives Jank Shank, albeit without the finger hole.

Sold with an included leather sheath, the WE Knife Co. Typhoeus is another incredibly unique self-defense knife, being both a fixed blade and a push dagger, all crammed into a single — and thoroughly premium — package. The Typhoeus is comprised of a titanium handle fitted with a unique morphing mechanism that allows its super premium 2.27” CPM 20CV clip point blade to pivot 45-degrees, enabling it to go from a fixed blade to a push dagger. Though it’s a seriously stellar choice for tactical and CQC use, this fixed-blade-push-dagger hybrid is a bit lacking when it comes to day-to-day utility. Consequently, we’ve opted to include the Typhoeus as an honorable mention. 

Constructed around a titanium chassis, the Medford Praetorian T 20CV is an ultra-premium take on a tactical EDC folder. Made in America in small batches by a boutique brand, this knife is meticulously crafted on a made-to-order basis that gives customers a wide range of configurable options, from the finish of each handle scale to pivot and hardware finish to blade finish, just to name a few. While there’s absolutely no denying the immense quality and performance offered by the Praetorian T 20CV, there’s also no getting around the fact that these things do NOT come cheap, and because of the exorbitant — though justifiable — price point, we’ve opted to make this Medford folder a particularly honorable mention. If your budget allows for it, it truly is one of the finest EDC-ready tactical knives on the market. 

Tested: The Best Neck Knives for EDC

Best Neck Knives for EDC 0 Hero
All Photography: HICONSUMPTION

If you’re looking for a more compact option for a self-defense-ready EDC knife that’s still effective in CQC scenarios, then be sure to head over to our guide to and review of the best neck knives for a curated list of small fixed blades that can be worn on a necklace.


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