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What Features To Consider Before Buying The Best Tactical Folding Knife

August 1, 2021

Ever since the first human ancestor decided to use the edge of sharp rock as a cutting tool, man has had a love affair with knives. This passion continues to this day because, even in our modern, fast-paced, lives, many of us still have a need for a cutting tool on a daily basis.

As man progressed from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age and then, to the Iron Age, blade technology has both proliferated and advanced. As a result, various cities around the world such a Solingen, Germany, Toledo, Spain, and Sheffield, England became widely known as cutlery manufacturing centers. This drew artisans from around the world to live, study, and work there.

Tactical folding knives are often purposing specific tools and bladesmiths have long recognized the need for specialized designs. Now such a wide range of blade types and steels to choose from that it is sometimes difficult for a person to wade through all of the available designs to find the best tactical folding knife for their particular needs.

What Size Tactical Folding Knife Do You Need?

When choosing an every-day-carry size is one of the first criteria to consider. Modern tactical EDC blades range in size from the very small to the very large.

Some users might prefer a relatively small blade that they can carry in their front pocket without impeding access to other items such as change, while others might prefer a relatively large model that they can carry in their back pocket.

Start by looking for a tactical pocket knife with a size that is appropriate for your intended use and where you think you’ll be most likely to carry it.

The most common options are a belt pouch or a pocket clip which enables user to carry in both tip-down or tip-up as well as left or right side.

Blade Steel Compositions of the Folding Tactical Knife

Until just a few decades ago, stainless steels were non-existent. All knives made prior to the invention of stainless steels were made from high carbon tool steel such as SAE 1095.

With the invention of modern stainless steels, most production manufacturers quickly embraced the various new stainless blade steels because of two important factors.

  1. Stainless steels do not corrode as quickly as high carbon tool steels.
  2. They require less care and maintenance.

That being said, high carbon tool steels do have the advantage of having a smaller grain structure than most stainless steels. As a result, they are not only easier to sharpen, but they will often take a finer edge and hold it longer than stainless steels.

But stainless steels offer the advantage of a high degree of corrosion resistance, and with the inclusion of such minerals as Molybdenum and Vanadium as well as the process of making so-called “powder steels”, blade steel manufacturers are now able to produce stainless steels with an extremely fine grain structure.

Therefore, when choosing an every-day-carry, most of the users prefer folding tactical knives with blades made from premium quality stainless steels like 440C, 420HC, 420J2, AUS-8. Even ATS-34 or semi-stainless steels such as D2 are more popular than non-stainless, high carbon steels for the reason that they need less preservation to protect them from rust.

The Opening Mechanism of Tactical Pocket Knife

The tactical folder “working knives” of yesteryear commonly featured a “nail nick” to enable the user to open the blade with two hands.

Today’s tactical pocket knives commonly feature a means by which the blade can be opened using a single hand.

This is accomplished by incorporating a thumb stud or a round hole in the back of the blade that gives tactile feedback and allows the user to open the knife without having to look at it.

While such a feature is often chosen by users who are looking for a tactical edc knife intended to be used strictly as a tool, those who purchase an everyday carry for tactical purposes often prefer knives with assisted opening mechanisms for quick blade deployment in tactical situations.

As a result, most manufacturers have developed their own proprietary versions of the assisted opening mechanism. They are marketed under various names such as Nitrous Assist, SOG Assisted Technology, SpeedSafe, Outburst, and F.A.S.T.

It’s important to note that not all assisted opening mechanisms also incorporate a locking mechanism such as CRKT’s FireSafe which keeps the blade in the closed position in the user’s pocket. Those folding knives without this feature can inadvertently open in the user’s pocket. And that can damage your manhood.

The Locking Mechanism of Tactical Folding Knife

When Al Buck developed his famous model 110 Folding Hunter, he also chose to incorporate a Lockback locking mechanism to keep the blade in the open position when in use. Since then such locking mechanisms have become the standard design for large folding tactical knives.

While many production knife manufacturers still incorporate traditional locking mechanisms such as Frame Locks and Liner Locks, others have since developed their own versions.

These are marketed under various names such as Axis Lock, Tri-Ad Lock, and Piston Lock.

These manufacturers would have you believe that their proprietary locking mechanism outperforms all others.

The truth is that the average user will never place enough stress on the knife’s locking mechanism to cause it to fail; nor will they ever use their knife enough to cause the locking mechanism significant wear.

Therefore, traditional locking mechanisms such as Linerlocks and Lockbacks generally work just as well as the fancy, new, locking mechanisms.

Handle Design of Tactical EDC Knife

When choosing your blade, you should also consider the size and shape of the handle. Ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • is it ergonomically designed?
  • Does it feel comfortable in your hand when you grip the handle tightly?
  • Does it feel small in your hand or does it completely fill your hand when gripped?
  • Does it provide a good, nonslip, surface?
  • Does it incorporate finger grooves or, an integral quillion to prevent it from sliding either forward or backward when the handle is wet?

Of course, there is a good reason for asking yourself these questions since the handle not only serves as a means of wielding and controlling the blade but also serves as means of orienting the blades cutting edge and preventing it from twisting in the user’s hand.

Both the size and the shape of the handle should reflect its intended purpose.

Handle Material

Last but not least, when choosing an everyday carry, you should also consider the material from which the handle scales are made.

Most older tactical folding knife designs incorporate handle scales made from materials as an exotic hardwood, stag antler, jigged bone, or Delrin.

Manufacturers have departed from this practice and instead incorporate handle scales made from man-made composites such as linen or canvas Micarta, glass reinforced nylon, G10, Zytel, ABS, Kirinite, Kraton, and Hypalon just to name a few.

While such materials may not be as aesthetically pleasing to some users as natural handle materials, the fact is that man-made composites are invariably tougher than natural handle materials.  This minimizes splitting, cracking and chipping. And because they are all impervious to the absorption of moisture, they will not decompose.

If your tactical folder is to be gently used, then handle scales made from a decorative material such as exotic hardwoods or stag antler are a good choice, but if it’s going to see hard use, you should consider handling scales made from a tough material such as Micarta or G10.

Final Thoughts

OK, so you can see there is a lot to consider when choosing the best folding tactical knife.  Each is important to both the durability and functionality of the blade.

However, when selecting a tactical everyday carry knife, the most important factors to be considered are blade design, blade steel, and opening mechanisms.

Different blade designs excel at different tasks. The spear point is optimized for piercing. Others such as the trailing point are best suited for slicing while, others such as the clip point and the drop point make good general purpose designs. It’s also important to remember that it’s more difficult to sharpen some blade shapes than others. Hollow grinds, in particular, can be tricky.

About the Author

Hi, I am Mr. Robert, a pro blogger, writer, and knife enthusiast as well as mister of outdoor and kitchen knife sharpening. If you are a fan of tactical knives, then you should check our world’s number one thetacticalknives.com review blog.

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