A Quick Guide to Selecting a Tactical Folding Knife for Police Work

by Matt on February 2, 2009

Because there are hundreds of tactical folding knives available on the market, selecting one to carry on-duty can be a difficult decision. Fortunately, if you know what you want in a knife, the selection process can be sped up dramatically. I want a knife that I can use to save my life when I cannot get to my gun in a fight, period. Virtually any sharp knife can cut a seatbelt and handle basic cutting and prying needs. Here are the primary factors (in plain English) that I look for in an on-duty knife.

  1. Sturdy Pocket Clip – The knife must have a sturdy pocket clip. Some of the more expensive knives on the market have the worst pocket clips. I have already bent the pocket clip on my expensive Benchmade switch blade while wearing it on-duty. A reversible pocket clip allows you to set up the most comfortable drawing position to carry your knife.
  2. One Hand Opening – If I cannot open the knife easily with one hand in the store, there is no way that I can open it with one hand under stress.
  3. Hand Protection – If you use your knife as a weapon, your hands are going to get wet with sweat and blood. When stabbing, you may hit bone, and this can cause your hand to slip from the grip onto the blade. To prevent this, knife makers concentrate on three main features.
         Finger Guard – Some knives have a finger guard that extends out far enough to help  prevent your fingers from slipping onto the blade. Usually, the finger guard then sticks out the back of the knife when it is shut, aiding in opening the blade.
         Thumb Ramp – Some knives have a raised ramp on the back of the knife where the handle meets the blade. These ramps are usually ridged to give your thumb some traction. This can enhance your grip when thrusting and stabbing.
         The ability to Palm the knife – Some knives have a handle that is short enough for you to position a portion of your palm over the butt end of the knife. This allows your palm to push against the knife in the event that your thrust ends abruptly and keeps your fingers off the blade.
  4.  Blade Length – I prefer a blade that is no more than four inches long and no less than two and a half inches long. This helps keep the knife from feeling bulky in your pocket, but gives you enough length to penetrate a suspect’s vital organs. Also, the longer the blade, the easier it is for a suspect to leverage it out of your hand in a fight.
  5. Price – If you carry a knife on-duty, you cannot be afraid to use it. The vast majority of tasks are going to involve prying and cutting, so a low price allows you to replace the knife when necessary. A price under $50 is ideal.
    I have an impressive collection of tactical folding knives from many major knife manufacturers. The majority of my knives are in the $100 – $150 range, which translates to me not carrying them on-duty.


If you have any doubts about the benefits of carrying your tactical folder as a backup weapon while on-duty, read this blog post on “the things worth believing in” called  more on that gun vs knife thing.  

If you would like more information on selecting a knife, check out Scott Smith’s article on Policemag.com: What to look for when buying a folding duty knife

I am interested in hearing about which tactical folder you carry. Please share your opinion about your favorite duty knife.

Here are my personal favorites based on the above criteria:
Gerber 22-41421 Crusader Fine Edge Knife– Plain or Serrated Edge (Priced around $27)



Gerber 22-41584 Torch I Tanto Black Serrated Edge Knife – Fine or Partially Serrated Edge (Priced around $23)





Gerber 22-47174 Firestorm Serrated Edge Knife with Tanto Blade – Plain or Partially Serrated Edge (Priced around $45)