How To Choose The Best Self Defense Knife For You

If you’re in a hurry and just want to know which is the overall best self defense knife we recommend, then check out the Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife with 3 11/16″ Straight Edge.

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Rule number one of self defense is to get out when the getting is good. 

Avoid confrontation. 

Check your ego at the door. 

Don’t get into knife fights. 

Or any other fights, for that matter. 

As soon as you engage, the probability of getting killed or sent to jail goes parabolic. 

It doesn’t matter how good a fighter you are; there is always something that can go wrong.

Even if you’re innocent and did not provoke the fight, you could still be held liable.


If the circumstance is a 50/50 chance of going to jail or going home in a body bag, then you have to do what you have to do.

We’re about survival here, and getting dead is not an option.

If your back is against the wall, and after 20 years in jail, you look back and can say I did what I had to and I don’t regret it, whether it was to protect your life, your spouse’s or your kids, defending yourself as a last resort may be the only option.

You’ve heard the expression don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Well, duh. But if someone pulls a gun on me, I’d rather have a knife than not. 

A knife can actually be a better weapon to have on you than a gun in many cases, as it’s easier to carry and use. 

Now what kind of knife I would carry is worth looking into further.

There are thousands of options, but we took the time to narrow it down to five that we feel will help decide which knife you should carry for self defense a little bit easier. 

Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife with 3-11/16″ Straight Edge

Kershaw Leek Pocket Knife

Fox 599 G10 Black Emerson Wave Folding Karambit

MTech USA MT-20-14 Series Fixed Blade Neck Knife

KA-BAR TDI Law Enforcement Knife 2 5/16″ Fixed Blade

If you would like to read a review on each of these options, you can read on. 

Or if you would like to know what criteria we look at so you can learn to choose the best self defense knife for yourself, you can jump to the info section using the table of contents below. 

Our Top Choices Of The Best Self Defense Knife

The Best Self Defense Fixed Blade Knife

Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife with 3 11/16″ Straight Edge

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When it comes to self defense, we don’t want to mess around with gimmicks or toys. 

We want a compact, comfortable, and devastating tool that will stop an attacker in its tracks. 

We thus turn to Ka-Bar, a name that’s been trusted by the U.S. military and law enforcement for decades. 

The Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife with 3 11/16″ Straight Edge is an ideal fixed blade knife for self defense because it is a lightweight, full tang fixed blade that you can easily conceal yet deploy and quickly, and use in a way that will cause plenty of damage. 

You may be familiar with the standard TDI Law Enforcement Knife. It’s slightly smaller with a 2 5/16″ blade. While we love the original, we find its big brother provides a nice balance between compactness and reach. 

The full tang will give you the strongest construction possible to ensure that your knife holds up under duress. 

Its angular design is ideal for close-range combat for its superior slashing and ripping action. 

Being that you’re carrying a smaller blade, stabbing won’t have the same stopping power as a clean slash to the forearm, upper arm muscles, or lower quadricep regions. 

Taking a hammer grip will give you a karambit’s parrying action while you still have a straight enough edge for deep forward strikes. 

With its ambidextrous sheath, you can conceal it in your belt hilt at the appendix comfortably and with easy access.

You can also put it on a chain to wear as a neck knife. 

Wherever you keep it, you’ll feel secure knowing that you have a knife you can depend on. 

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The Best Automatic Self Defense Knife

Kershaw Leek Pocket Knife, 3 inch Blade, Great E.D.C. Folding Knives, Frame Lock, SpeedSafe Assisted Opening, Made in the U.S.A., Multiple Styles

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When it comes to self defense knives, we would hesitate to recommend an automatic knife. 

There are too many risk factors when you start to bring in more mechanical parts. 

They can jam or break at the time when you need it most.

But, if you’re more likely to carry an automatic knife than you would a fixed blade, then you at least better have a good automatic knife to keep you safe.

Some automatic knives have locks, and some don’t. 

We recommend getting one with a lock. If you’re wearing it on your belt or clipped to your pocket, you don’t want it opening accidentally and injuring you. 

The locking mechanism should be near the release for the quickest deployment of the knife as possible. 

You don’t want to have to use two hands to open your automatic knife.

Time is of the essence to maintain the element of surprise when deploying your knife in self defense situations.

It’s important that once it’s open, it stays open. We don’t care how long or how hard it is to close the knife once it’s open so long as it remains open when in use.

There are more parts, so it will naturally be larger and heavier than a fixed blade or standard folding knife. 

Thus we’ll want something as lightweight and compact as possible to make it comfortable to carry. 

We find the Kershaw Leek fits the bill best. 

It has a high grade 3″ stainless steel blade and assisted spring action opening element housed in a sleek and lightweight handle. 

This is not a heavy-duty knife for everyday use. 

But you can count on it staying open once deployed with its sturdy frame locking mechanism. 

It’s ambidextrous and comes with a tip lock. 

The tip lock is not an ideal place, but if you reverse the pocket clip, it will at least be close to your thumb if you store the knife tip up in your pocket. 

It’s the lightest automatic knife we can find and should be comfortable enough to carry with you each day. 

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The Best Folding Knife For Self Defense

Fox 599 G10 Black Emerson Wave Folding Karambit

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A folding knife puts one more step between you and deploying your knife to stop an attacker. 

Ideally, we would prefer to have a fixed blade, but again, if you’re more likely to carry a knife that folds closed, then you might as well have a good folding knife for self defense. 

In this case, we would have to go with the Fox 599 Emerson Wave Folding Karambit. 

The Fox 599 includes the Emerson wave technology that allows for fast opening action. 

Not only is it an intimidating S.O.B., but we also prefer curved blades like Karambits because of their superior slashing and ripping action that can stop an attacker with just a few precise strikes. 

The 2 ¼” blade is long enough to take a serious bite out of anyone who tries to make a move against you. 

The handle is the right size at just under 5″. While it should fit in almost everyone’s hand comfortably, you can check out the Fox 479 for a longer handle for those of you with a larger grip. 

We like that it comes with a clip mount an ambidextrous grip as well as for you lefties out there. 

There is a strong inner lock that will ensure it stays open once deployed. Again, we don’t care how difficult it is to close the knife once it’s open. This is not to be used for routine jobs. 

If we’re opening, it’s because it’s time to work, and it needs to stay open.

It has deep diamond grip points that will keep the knife in your hand no matter how sweaty your palms get in stressful situations. 

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The Best Self Defense E.D.C. (Every Day Carry)

MTech USA MT-20-14 Series 6-1/2-Inch Fixed Blade Neck Knife

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I suppose every self defense knife is considered E.D.C.; otherwise, it wouldn’t do you much good. 

But if we had to choose a self defense knife focusing on E.D.C. as its primary factor, we would have to go with the MTech USA MT-20-14 Series Fixed Blade Neck Knife.

It’s ultra-lightweight, sporting a 2 ¾” double-edged full tang blade housed in an ultralightweight nylon fiber hard sheath that comes with a breakaway ball chain. 

If you sport it around your neck, you’ll prefer a breakaway chain to a 550 or leather cord. You don’t want to have anything around your neck that can be used against you in an attack. 

If you prefer to tuck into the hilt of your pants, then you can put a stronger leash on it if you choose. 

The ambidextrous handle is small at 3 ¾” long, which may feel uncomfortable for bigger people out there. Still, it will give you sufficient material for a good hammer grip, and the double-edged blade will work well, ripping in slashing both directions. 

Overall, this knife is so comfortable to wear and lethal to wield you would be hard-pressed to find a better knife for E.D.C. 

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The Best Self Defense Knife For A Woman

KA-BAR TDI Law Enforcement Knife Fixed Blade

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Any of the knives we listed above would be equally useful to a woman as they would be to a man. 

But we understand that some women out there prefer something smaller that fits more comfortably in their hands. 

Again, the key to having a self defense knife is that you feel comfortable bringing with you every day. 

Thus we find the best balance between size and stopping power would have to be the original Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Fixed Blade Knife.

We recommended the same knife as the best fixed blade knife, except this model is slightly smaller with a 2 5/16″ blade, where its bigger sister has a 3 11/16″ blade. 

Its ambidextrous handle is slightly smaller as well at 3 5/16″, which should make it a little more comfortable for you ladies out there with smaller hands. 

Despite its smaller size, it is equally as devastating and will be sure to force any attacker to think twice before making another move against you.

It comes with a hard nylon sheath that you can clip to your belt or to the inside of your pants for quick access. 

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Why A Self Defense Knife May Be Right For You

Having a tool on your person at all times to protect yourself from an attack is a wise investment.

Especially now with the way the pandemic is changing the world. 

Economic crisis leads to unstable situations for many people that will only increase the likelihood of violent crimes. 

We’re not trying to be pessimistic. It’s just a fact that desperation will cause people to take drastic measures to survive. 

Whether that be looting, burglary, or armed robbery in the street. 

If you find yourself in a situation in which you can’t escape, having a self-defense knife could save your life. 

In some cases, we would even recommend carrying a knife for self-defense over carrying a pistol. 

When under attack, the majority of the time, it will be from close quarters. A firearm is best at causing damage from a distance. 

Being up close, you will have a harder time drawing and firing a pistol than you would by grabbing a knife and starting to slash and stab your way out of trouble.

You can also cause unintended harm to people standing by with the use of a firearm. 

Most people are not carrying hollow-point rounds. 

If you fire off a round and it hits the target, there is still a high likelihood of that round passing through the target and hit something or someone else. 

What Type Of Knife Is Best For Self Defense?

Of course, the best knife for self defense, just like survival, is the knife you have. 

Now there are some key points you should look for in a knife to ensure that you will always have it when you need it. 

For example, if it’s not comfortable, you’re not going to carry it. 

Not only does the way you carry the knife need to be comfortable, but the knife itself should not have any rough or protruding points that could cause you discomfort when you’re sitting or working. 

The first thing you’re going to do is take it off and set it down somewhere, and then you’re at risk of losing it or leaving it behind.

The second factor to be aware of is that the most effective knife is the one that no one knows you have.

The element of surprise is what’s going to save your life. No one goes into an attack with weapons drawn and a count to three. 

The size of the knife you choose is insignificant. The key is that it needs to be concealed. So that will depend on the person. 

A 200lb, 6’2″ man can conceal a much bigger blade than a 5’3″ 120lb woman. 

And no, you don’t want to drop a five-inch blade in your purse. 

You need to have fast access to your knife to be able to deploy it in a moment.

However, you still need a tool with enough stopping power to put distance between you and an attacker for you to escape. 

Essentially what you need is the smallest effective package.

It should be able to be concealed cleanly in your belt, clipped to your inner pocket, or worn around the neck. 

Now, if you really want to have the best chance of concealing your knife and not losing it to metal detectors when going through security, then you’re going to want to get a ceramic blade vs. a steel blade. 

But of course, a ceramic blade will be less durable than a steel blade. 

So you will have to decide what is the better trade-off for you. 

Again, the length of the blade is going to depend on how big a person you are and how well you can conceal it, but ideally, you would like a blade with enough length to slash critical targets, but you can be effective with anything from a two-inch all the way up to a four-inch blade. 

If it’s too long, the blade can be more challenging to get out. 

You also don’t want to be caught with a blade length that’s illegal to carry in your state. Be sure to check your local laws for legal carry limits before making your final decision. 

You also want to avoid having to have a folding knife or an assisted knife, as the more steps there are in getting it open, the more risk you’re at of harm. 

You also don’t need a device that can fail on you when you need it most. Folding knives are weaker at the neck and can snap compared to a full tang fixed blade. Assisted knives can jam or disengage that can also cost you when it counts.

If you’re deciding between a serrated blade vs. a straight edge for a self defense knife, we feel the straight edge is a better bet. 

Yes, a serrated edge could come in handy if you have to cut yourself free from some sort of entanglement, but we feel a self defense knife should be dedicated to doing one thing, and that’s stopping an attacker. 

Having a razor-sharp straight edge will be able to do penetrated flesh better than a serrated knife that can get caught on garments. 

There are a variety of steel manufacturers use in tactical knives for defense. But really, there are too many other important factors aside from steel type that you should be considering. 

If the edge is shop sharpened when you get it, meaning it’s not razor-sharp, you can put the final edge on it with a good stone and a strop. 

The type of steel will determine how easy it is to sharpen and how long it retains its edge. 

But because you shouldn’t be using this particular knife for anything other than self defense, you shouldn’t have to worry about it losing its edge often. 

If you need a knife for routine jobs throughout the day, we recommend having a second knife that’s better suited for those jobs, and only use your self defense knife when the time calls for it. 

The handle, on the other hand, is very important. 

It should be big enough to fit in your hand with a good grip, but not so big that you can’t conceal it or carry it comfortably. 

You also want to avoid the glass breaker handles and go with the pommel handle. 

Yes, you can do some damage with a glass breaker tip at the hard end of the knife, but you will probably end up doing more harm to yourself than your attacker. 

With a pommel handle, you can still use it to hammer on your opponent. But if you need to hammer down on the back of the knife, you will also have that option without breaking your own hand. 

The handle’s design should also include an aggressive choil or indent at the neck, where you can get a firm grip on the knife. 

If you have a weak grip, your strikes will be less effective, and you lose stopping power. 

It doesn’t matter how sharp the blade is if you can’t provide a deep slashing delivery. 

A good handguard would also be ideal for keeping your hand from running over the blade if you need to stab. 

In conjunction with the knife’s design, the sheath you carry it in should also be comfortable, easy to conceal, and not inhibit your ability to access and deploy your knife quickly. 

Keep the sheath in mind, especially if you’re left-handed, and what you will need to do to access your knife.

You may prefer an ambidextrous neck knife that you can grab with either hand. 

Finally, if a folding knife is a knife you will feel most comfortable carrying with you every day, then you will want to find one with a wave opener device instead of an assisted or automatic knife. 

Again, you don’t want anything that can jam or break when you need it.

What Is The Best Way To Use A Knife For Self Defense?

So we’ve all seen these bogus self-defense videos all over youtube showing you how to perform techniques that you will never use. 

If you’ve ever been in an actual fight, and we mean an attack, not some backyard bare-knuckle boxing club you have with your buddies, then you know that in the heat of the moment, your gross motor skills, or instincts, kick in, and you will punch, scratch, bite and kick your way to safety. 

Now when you add a knife into the mix, you’re going to need something that will add to the destructive force and provide real stopping power to disable your attacker. Yes, an intimidation factor goes into your choice, but you better be ready to use it if the fear factor is not enough to scare off your attacker at the end of the day. 

We know our audience is not the average person carrying a pocket knife to open envelopes and boxes. 

You probably already have the training and skills to do damage with a small blade. 

But for our new members who are still learning about using a sharpened edge to defend themselves, we’re going to go over some basic techniques you can practice. 

Knowing how to use a knife for self defense will also help you better understand what you should be looking for when deciding which knife will best defend yourself. 

First, most self-defense instructors will tell you that you will want to go with a slashing technique over the stabbing when using a small blade. 

Stabbing with a small blade doesn’t have the stopping power a few key slashes could have to the attacker’s wielding arm to disable it from being able to attack you further. 

Or from a few critical slashes to the leg to immobilizing the attacker and give you time to get away.

We’ve sourced some videos here from the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) that do a great job to quickly give you an introduction on how to use a knife in self-defense.

We also think it’s important to know what to do if someone pulls a knife on you and you don’t have your knife out yet. 

Pulling a knife on someone is not typically our first reaction to a threat. 

So you may need some time to assess the situation and get your bearings before determining how to defend yourself. 

Watch in this video how you can defend yourself against a knife attack until you can deploy yours.

You should design a system for yourself that you can use to get your knife out quickly once you’ve assessed the situation and understand that fleeing is not an option. 

There are rules to concealed carry, so you will need to show a little bit of a knife, but you can do so in a way that is still hardly detectable. 

The key is to conceal it in a way that can still be easily accessed without getting caught on your garment. 

Concealing your knife in a way that can be pulled down or to the side can avoid getting caught on the cover garment and save you precious time when getting your knife out to defend yourself. 

More Questions About Self Defense Knives

Should I Get A Tip Up Or A Tip Down Folder Self-Defense Knife?

We already talked about why we would want to avoid having a folding knife as your self defense knife, but if a folding knife is what you will most likely carry with you every day, we recommend you at least have a tip-up folding knife. 

Having a tip-up folding knife is, first and foremost, safer to carry. You don’t have to worry about it opening in your pocket and hurting yourself. 

Secondly, it will be much faster to deploy at the moment you need it to defend yourself. 

Should I Carry My Knife In My Pocket Or At The Hilt?

Carrying it in the pocket can be detrimental if you have other things in the pocket that can slow you down from accessing the knife or getting the knife caught on something during deployment. 

We find the best place to keep your self defense knife is at the hilt or around the neck. 

You will have clear access with either hand and pull down to deploy the knife in both cases.

Pulling down to deploy the knife will reduce the probability of getting caught on the cover garment that can cost you time and the element of surprise.

Should I Carry Two Knives? 

Yes. One for work. One for defense. 

You don’t want to use your self-defense knife for daily tasks. 

You can, of course, use your self defense knife in a survival situation. But ideally, you want to preserve the edge on your self defense knife for when you really need it. 

Other Considerations

Before you decide on getting a knife to use to defend yourself, you should know that you will be at risk of going to jail if you ever use it. 

A lot of people aren’t aware there is such a thing as Carry Insurance. 

If you knew about it but are still unsure whether you should get it, well, the short answer is: Yes.

The moment you show that you are carrying a weapon, you’ve legally met the requirements for aggravated assault. 

It doesn’t matter if you are defending yourself or not. The penalty for pulling a weapon on another person can be severe.

So, are you willing to take the risk? 

If you’ve invested in a weapon, whether it be a firearm, a knife, or even martial arts classes, then you would be wise to hedge against the risk of when you have to use it. 

The cost of defending yourself in a self defense case is designed so that you will lose if you don’t have the resources (aka money) to stay out of jail. 

Thus, having insurance will show the prosecutors that you have the resources to defend yourself and will be difficult for them to win. 

That alone may deter many prosecutors from even pressing charges, saving you a fortune in legal costs. 

You must know the law and be ready to deal with it when standing your ground against a threat. 

Saying “I didn’t know” is not an excuse.

For example, if you provoke someone to attack you, and you “defend” yourself, this will not hold up in court. 

Or if someone attacks you and you choose to stand your ground instead of retreating, even though you have the right to stand your ground, this could still work against you in court. 

Having insurance is not a guarantee that you will not go to jail. 

It may pay for the cost of getting you there, but making sure you do not do anything illegal while defending yourself is of the utmost importance.

The cost of having insurance is minuscule compared to what it would cost you to pay representation if you ever have to go to trial. 

Finding a broker is easy. 

We recommend going with the USCCA, but if you want to shop around, then there are a few key factors you wish to consider before choosing your provider.

Do not get reimbursement insurance. You’ll never see a dime, and it’s really a conflict of interest. 

The insurance company will do whatever it takes to minimize the cost to them, which leaves you with fewer resources to fight.

You should also be able to choose your own lawyer, who you will be comfortable talking to every day for at least a few months, if not longer, and who you trust will have your best interest at heart.

Here’s a great video from the Warrior Poet Society with a more in-depth talk with a renowned self-defense lawyer.


Well, there you have it, friends–our complete breakdown on how to choose the best self defense knife. 

Keep in mind that the most important factor when choosing a knife is that you will be comfortable carrying it with you every day. 

Because the best knife for self defense is the one you have with you. 

Though having a knife is not enough, and can get you into trouble if you carry something you don’t know how to use.

Be sure to train with your knife, and anticipate emergency situations and how you would handle them. 

If you’re still having trouble deciding which is the best option, we would go with the Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife with 3 11/16″ Straight Edge as the best self defense knife. 

It’s easy to carry and conceal on the hilt or attached to a chain to wear around the neck, where you can deploy it quickly if you decide the situation calls for it. 

We like its angular design as it will give you a natural posture to push, slash, and rip that will cause the most damage from whichever way you can attack. 

If you’re up against a wall, you can use the gun grip to push stab with the full force of your hip and shoulders. 

If your attacker’s swinging at you with a weapon, you will have the range you need to slash at the key points to disable the striking limb and immobilize the legs. 

Overall, you have a little package that can provide a lot of damage and give you the ability to put enough distance between you and your attacker to get away. 

If you have any comments or questions about any of the knives we’ve chosen or that you use and we did not include, we would love to hear from you. 

Please write to us in the comments section below. We appreciate any additional value you can add to the community.

Until next time.

–Team AppliedSurvial

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