I’m often asked for my opinion on the best knife brand. Of course, it’s near impossible to single out one brand but what I can do is share some of the more popular ‘mainstream’ knife brands that I’ve enjoyed over the years.
These are my “go-to” brands, especially when it comes to EDC knives.
First up is Benchmade. The Benchmade brand is highly respected, and has been since 1988 when they first set up shop in California. Based in Oregon since 1990, they are the patent-holders of the famed AXIS locking mechanism.
Whether you’re using the traditional AXIS without spring-assist or the AXIS-Assist with a spring to assist in rapid deployment, the lock-up is one of the most solid I’ve seen and is both safe and easy to use. Benchmade prides itself on using quality steel for their knives, and produce fantastic designs for EDC knives that will stand the test of time.
Benchmade knives run the gamut from budget-conscious to not-so-budget conscious. For the budget-conscious, the Griptilian and Mini Griptilian make excellent choices, with nicely scaled handles and 154CM stainless steel blades. If your budget is a bit more, the 940-1 Osborne is the quintessential lightweight EDC knife in my book, and is one of the finest knives Benchmade has ever produced.
Kershaw Knives is an excellent knife making company that has been around since 1974, when Pete Kershaw left Gerber to form his own cutlery company based on his own designs. His early manufacturing was handled in Japan, but since Kershaw became a wholly owned subsidiary of the KAI Group, most manufacturing has been handled in the Kai USA factories in Tualatin, Oregon, with a few products being manufactured in Kai’s Japanese and Chinese factories.
The Kershaw lineup is made up primarily of pocket knives and sporting knives, and is known for its use of high quality steel and other materials. Some of the most popular Kershaw knives are the Kershaw Leek, the Blur, and the Shallot.
For EDC use, I love the Kershaw Blur, designed by Hall of Fame knife maker Ken Onion, and find it to be extremely well made. The blade of the Blur is 14C28N steel, a mid-range steel but it’s also available in more premium steels if you pay a little more. It’s a well-made knife that will last for years under even the toughest of conditions. A similar priced option is the Kershaw Knockout is still an excellent EDC choice, with a blade also made of 14C28N stainless steel and lightweight aluminum handles.
Spyderco is based in Golden, Colorado, and has pioneered many features that have become commonplace in EDC knives, including the pocket clip and serrations, as well as the well-known “spyder hole” opening mechanism. In its design and innovation efforts, Spyderco has collaborated with athletes, self-defense instructors, and custom knife makers to develop the usage of 20 different blade materials.
Sal Glesser founded Spyderco in 1976, with the Portable Hand, a spider-shaped device that helped jewelers, hobbyists, and others work with small parts using a series of angles, ball joints, and alligator clips. Spyderco is also well-known for making knife sharpeners, but their knives are what really make the difference for this US company.
A staple in the knife enthusiast’s collection and one of my favorite EDC knives is the Spyderco Paramilitary 2. This knife utilizes the high-performance CPM S30V stainless steel with a full flat ground blade, and has G10 scales for lightness and excellent performance. The textured handles of the Paramilitary 2 make it simple and effective to hold, without rubbing your hand raw under heavy usage.
Another Spyderco knife I get a ton of mileage from is the Delica 4, a small, inexpensive knife with some excellent characteristics such as VG-10 stainless steel and a full flat-grind drop point blade. The Delica 4 is lightweight and comes with fiberglass-reinforced nylon with stainless steel liners, and comes in a variety of colors for the fashion-conscious.
SOG Specialty Knives was made famous for their reproduction SOG Knife from the Vietnam era, but manufactures a number of other knives besides the original military-inspired designs. A number of SOG’s knives are geared towards EDC, as well as its line of multi-tools.
SOG was founded in 1986 by Spencer and Gloria Frazer, and is currently based in Lynnwood, Washington. Spencer Frazer was inspired by the SOG Bowie knife carried by members of the MACV-SOG special ops unit to recreate their highly effective knife and carry out a tribute to the men of this highly classified special operations unit.
My favorite SOG EDC knife is the Flash II, a great low-cost knife with a variety of styles, including a tanto blade. This knife uses AUS-8 stainless steel for the blade, and the handle is made from the extremely lightweight but durable Zytel. At 3.1 ounces it’s a respectably light knife for everyday carry. Another terrific EDC option from SOG is the Twitch, a simple folding knife that opens with the twitch of one finger. The Twitch is also made with an AUS-8 stainless steel blade, and comes with graphite-colored hard anodized 6061-T6 aluminum scales.
Columbia River Knife & Tool, Inc., known as CRKT, is another Oregon-based knife maker producing excellent folding knives for everyday carry. CRKT, though based in the United States, manufactures most of its knives in China and Taiwan.
Founded in 1994 by Paul Gillespi and Rod Bremer, both former employees of Kershaw Knives, did not truly “make it big” in the knife industry until the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple) knife was introduced in 1997. Introduced at the 1997 Shot Show, the knife was so popular that CRKT had to triple its production efforts in the early days of the knife’s production.
The Original K.I.S.S. knife is still popular today, and is one of the most unique and best-selling of the CRKT brande. Designed by Ed Halligan, the K.I.S.S. features 3CR13 stainless steel for both the blade and the frame, with a fine bead-blast finish. The design of the K.I.S.S. pocket/money clip allows the knife to be used in a variety of ways in the pocket; as either a money clip knife or as a traditional EDC knife clipped to the pocket. The knife also features a lanyard hole for use with a split-ring or lanyard as a key chain knife.
You can’t talk about knives without talking about Cold Steel, and I don’t just mean the metal the knives are made of. Cold Steel is a company based in Ventura, California, that puts out some of the best knives, swords, and other edged weapons and tools available to the market.
Cold Steel was founded in 1980 by Lynn C. Thompson, and their knives and swords are frequently featured in major motion pictures such as The Wolverine and Dredd. The innovations made by Cold Steel are some of the reasons for many commonalities in the knife making industry today, such as the use of the Tanto-style knife blade.
A favorite among Cold Steel’s EDC knives is the Espada series, with its Japanese-made AUS-8 steel blade. The Espada series features a blade thickness of 4mm, and is available in lengths ranging from 8.5” to 16.75”. The Espada line of EDC knives comes with an ambidextrous pocket/belt clip, and handles made either of polished G-10 with polished 7075 Aluminum Bolster and Frame, or an all-G-10 handle. A respectable knife, the Espada looks as mean as it cuts. Another fantastic choice is the Cold Steel Code 4, which also features Japanese AUS-8 stainless steel for the blade. The handle on the Code 4 is 6061 aluminum, and this knife has found its way to being one of the most popular EDC knives among law enforcement personnel.
Another division of the KAI Group, Zero Tolerance is well known for crafting high quality premium and professional knives. Kai USA began the Zero Tolerance line in 2006, when it recognized a need in the Made-in-the-USA market for hard-use knives to meet the needs of hard-working professionals in the military, law enforcement, and other first response industries, such as for firefighters and emergency medical personnel.
While ZT’s initial products were combat knives, the brand has since become known for a wide range of general-use EDC and premium EDC knives. Zero Tolerance knives are built from premium S30V, ELMAX, or 154CM blade steel and premium G-10 handle scales that are 3-D machined.
One of my favorite ZT knives is the ZT 0562 Hinderer, made from an ELMAX stainless steel blade with G-10 scales. The ELMAX steel has extreme retention of a sharp edge, very high strength, and the toughness demanded by a hard-use knife. It features rapid deployment from the handle, and a framelock with a lockbar stabilizer to make sure it stays locked up every time.
Another great EDC knife by Zero Tolerance, the ZT 0350 featuring assisted opening of the S30V stainless steel blade, which is coated with Tungsten DLC. The scales, again, are 3-D machined G-10, and are perfectly textured to ensure your grip at all times. Perhaps my favorite feature on the 0350 is the jimping on the back of the knife handle, which makes the knife great for up-close and personal use.
Other honorable mentions:
Some of the other mainstream pocket and tactical knife brands I have respect for include Boker, Buck, Case, Emerson, Gerber and KA-BAR . You will find excellent offerings among the lineups of all these manufacturers.
Then, as you step up a notch into the world of high performance folding knives you should check out offerings from great brands like Chris Reeve, Shirogorov, Microtech, WE Knife, Reate, Todd Begg, Kizer, Hogue and Rike. You can read more about all these brands on my brand page. Yup, it’s a great time to be a knife fan!
Have another brand you think deserves a mention? Drop me a line…