Just like how MacGyver never left home without his Swiss Army knife and duct tape, any serious prepper knows that a tactical knife is a must-have and should be carried around during dangerous times. Choosing one, however, is a bit of a chore because of the sheer variety of knife models on the market.
It’s important to note that when buying a tactical knife, functionality is more important than aesthetics. Just because a knife looks cool doesn’t necessarily mean it will hold up during a survival scenario.
You’ll need to know exactly what you’ll be using your knife for. Very often, you’ll see survivalists saying that you can open a can of beans or some other canned foods with a survival knife.
But why would you do that?
You could just use a can opener or a Swiss Army knife which has a variety of tools. It’s easier to use, better suited for the job and your knife will not have an increased chance of getting blunt. Exercise common sense here.
Let’s see when a tactical knife will come in handy…
Why you need a tactical knife
A tactical knife can be used to cut paracord when you’re securing your tent to the ground. Or it can be used to whittle small branches and scrape off flint when starting a fire.
Your tactical knife can be used to break glass too… though it’s better to use a tactical flashlight when you need to smash through a car window or any window pane. You always want to avoid making the knife blunt, which will mean the hassle of using a multi-tool sharpener to sharpen it.
Generally, tactical knives can be used to cut and slice meat, carve wood and for camping and hunting purposes. If you have bigger tasks such as clearing brush, chopping the limbs from the meat (after hunting), etc. you should use a machete instead. Tactical knives are for smaller jobs.
Tactical knives can also be used for self-defense, if you don’t have a firearm.
People often wonder, “Do I really need a tactical knife? Can’t I just use the kitchen knife I have at home?”
The answer is no. You can’t. Really.
Most kitchen knives are great for cutting vegetables and meat when cooking, but will not be suitable for outdoor survival tasks. Even using them for self-defense is dangerous because the blades will break and so on. These knives are just not tough enough to handle the demands during a survival situation.
Understanding the options available
You’ll have several options available when buying a tactical knife. Some knives have a fixed blade while others have a folding blade.
Some knives have a switch that flicks out the blade, while others require you to pull out the blade (assisted open) before it locks into place. Neither is recommended, and the latter is an unnecessary hassle.
It’s always better to get a fixed blade. While a folding blade knife is more compact, portable and looks cooler, it’s not as sturdy as a fixed blade knife. You don’t want to deal with levers and locking mechanisms when using a knife for survival. Keep it simple and get a fixed blade knife.
The other option is whether you should get a serrated blade knife or a plain edge knife. Both have their pros and cons. Serrated blade knives are great for cutting through rope, canvas, meat, etc. However, the material tends to get frayed because of the nature of the blade.
Serrated blades are ridiculously difficult to sharpen. So, if your blade is blunt, you’ll need to bring it to a professional to sharpen it.
Plain edge knives will do most of the tasks that serrated blade knives do. They may not be as effective for some tasks, but for the most part, they’re the better option.
It’s also much easier to sharpen a plain edge knife. That alone makes a plain edge a better choice, though it doesn’t look as cool as a serrated blade.
Tactical knives for self-defense
There are generally 2 kinds of tactical knives, if you’re talking about self-defense.
One is the curved blade knife known as a karambit. It’s used to slash and can be used for stabbing, if thrust upwards. Generally, these are folding, locking blade knives that can be whipped out in seconds.
Karambits have a shorter reach because of the curved blade. Furthermore, they’re not a really good tactical knife because it’ll be difficult to use them for tasks such as cutting meat or whittling wood.
This curved knife is made for combat. It’s best to sign up for martial arts classes such as Kali or Silat to learn how to use a karambit proficiently. This is not a ‘straightforward’ weapon to use.
The other type of knife is the conventional straight blade (fixed) tactical knife that we’ve talking about since the start of the article. You get all the utility for survival tasks, and can use it for self-defense too. Once again, it’s best to get trained when it comes to knife fighting and defense.
What to look for when buying a tactical knife
Always buy a tactical knife that’s made out of high carbon steel. This will mean that the blade is strong and can be sharpened easily. Try and get a knife with a thicker blade.
The weight of the knife matters too. Get one that you’ll feel comfortable using. Some people may prefer lighter knives, while others will prefer a slightly heavier knife.
Always get a full tang tactical knife. The blade will extend all the way into the handle (which is riveted to the blade). So it’s actually one piece and not attached. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry about it. Just look for a full tang.
This is why we don’t recommend folding knives. Anytime there is a joint, lever, switch, etc, that’s a weak link on a knife, no matter how popular it is in the marketplace.
The handle of the knife needs to ergonomic, which is a big word that just means the knife has to feel comfortable when you hold it. Most of the bestselling tactical knives are ergonomic, with a non-slip grip and finger grooves that will naturally be easy and comfortable to grip.
Read the reviews before buying a knife just to see if customers who bought it are mostly satisfied.
Make sure your tactical knife comes with a sheath so that the blade is protected from the elements, and you are protected from the blade. Accidents can happen, so it’s best to have a sheath.
The length of the blade is an issue too. You MUST be aware of the laws in your country/state. Some laws will allow you to carry a concealed knife if the blade is 3 inches or less. In other places, carrying a knife could be illegal.
Even if you’re using a knife in self-defense, you could get charged and even end up in prison. So, be very knowledgeable about the laws in your state… and know what you’ll be using your knife for and if you’ll be carrying it around.
What are your preferences?
At the end of the day, the recommendations and pointers above are suggestions – but you’ll need to decide for yourself what you really want.
If you’re really looking for a tactical knife that’s compact, then a folding knife might be better for you. It’ll still get the job done.
Or maybe you’re trained in knife fighting and only need a knife for self-defense. In this case, the karambit will be the better choice.
Ultimately, a tactical knife is a tool to help you in a survival scenario. So, it’s best to get one that will serve your needs well.