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My father gave me my first pocketknife when I was 7 years old. He sat me down and explained what a privilege and responsibility it was to own a knife, especially when you carry it on you wherever you go. It was a big moment in my life because it was the first step towards becoming a fully self-sustaining and self-sufficient man. Plus, it meant a lot that he would bestow that kind of trust and responsibility on me.
I learned a lot from that experience; it helped form who I became as an adult in many ways, and while not every kid is ready for such a heavy dose of responsibility at that young of an age these days, I knew it was special that my dad thought I was ready at that time. Some of what I learned became life-long lessons like the first thing that I came to know which was the importance of having a good knife and the rules for carrying it.
I ended up carrying that first pocketknife with me absolutely everywhere I went for over a decade before retiring it. It stood up to a ton of use and lasted through all of the abuse like any young man can put a tool like that through in all their adventures. I still have that first pocket knife my dad gave me, it now sits in a special place and every once in awhile I pull it out to remember the times I spent with him. Plus, I get to remember all the lessons that it and he taught me.
Best Pocket Knife Brands in 2020 Reviewed
What is a pocket knife and what is it used for?
A good knife can save your life in some extreme circumstances, but just the everyday convenience of having one available is reason enough to own and carry a good pocketknife. Even more important is a good camp/hunting knife to carry when you are out in the woods. It is there that you will find the most need and uses for your knife; that is why it is so important to have a great camp knife that you can use as a tool to do a variety of outdoor tasks. You should be able to do all the necessary work for setting up and maintaining a hunting camp while trusting that your knife will not break, chip, slip, or have any other issue that a less than premium knife will end up with.
A pocketknife is a knife with a blade of 6 inches or less and has either a folding blade or fixed blade. Typically, a pocket knife is a 3 or 4-inch blade that folds into the handle of the knife to make it so it can easily be carried within your pocket without poking, stabbing, or cutting you.
Then there are the hunting knives that are 4 to 6-inch fixed blades, meaning that their blades are in a fixed position above the handle and they do not fold over. These knives have a tang, which is the continuation of the blade that extends into the handle and is what the grip of the handle attaches to. Usually, you will carry this type of knife in a leather – or similar material – sheath. This is for protecting the carrier against being stabbed or cut, and it gives the carrier a place to attach the knife to a belt or other equipment holder.
Buyers Guide: Are pocketknives worth it?
When you go to pick out a good, solidly built knife to purchase for your next pocket/hunting knife, you need to know the value of a great knife. There are knives that fill every price point and you can spend as little or as much as you see fit for your next knife. Just be sure that you understand the importance of owning and carrying a good knife before you make this decision; it may just save your life someday.
A great knife is a tool that can do so many different tasks and will make life easier for the person carrying it. You can do every day around the house tasks using your pocketknife, like; opening packages, especially those tough to open hard plastic packages or just slicing open the tape holding a box shut; screwing small screws in and out of their housings – so you can build or tear down anything; cut anything you can think of from clothing to rope and even score drywall, wood, or other materials for accurately breaking it up into correctly sized pieces; and there is so much more you can do with your pocketknife that the list is nearly endless.
That is just around the home. When you expand the list to include outdoor tasks for setting up a camp or going on a hunting excursion, the list multiplies exponentially. You absolutely need a good knife for outdoor journeys to go hunting or camping because it will make your life so much easier that the difference is palpable. You can do everything from cutting the ropes and making small holes in a tarp – to tie it down to your tent or truck bed – to cleaning your harvested animal after a hunt and get it ready for cooking. Even cooking and eating is another thing you need a decent knife for when you are outdoors or even at home.
As you can see, the list of uses for a good knife goes on and on. So, the value of a great knife is worth to you as much as the uses you have for it. If you are one to spend a lot of time doing various activities, especially outdoors, then a great knife will be worth a lot more to you than it would be worth to a person who only will use theirs around the home or the office at work. To some of us, a great pocket/hunting knife is worth its weight in gold, while for some people it may be more of a silver level price that a knife is worth to them.
Now, when it comes to picking out a knife for yourself, there are a few things you will want to consider beforehand. The first of those things is the length of a blade you need. When considering this you need to think about how you will be using and carrying your knife. Will you be using it on everyday tasks like opening packages, cutting fabric or string, or similar tasks? If so, then you will want a smaller blade, say 3 inches in length, and you probably want a foldable instead of fixed so you can easily carry in your pocket everywhere you go.
In another circumstance, if you want to use your knife to do tasks like cleaning a deer after you harvest it or cutting wood around the campsite, or use it to build things in the woods – like a brush blind, then you will want a larger blade. The best option for this would be a knife with a blade that is 6 inches in length and with a fixed handle. This will work well because it will give you more control and power when beating away at the spine or the pommel to work your way through a piece of wood or other objects.
The next decision you must make is whether you want a serrated blade or a smooth blade. They each offer contrasting functions and have individual uses which they excel at. If you want a knife that is easier to open hard plastic packages with and cut zip-ties with, then you can use a serrated blade because it gives you more cutting power using less force than a smooth blade. Serrated blades do, however, create a less than perfect slice when cutting into any object. This is because they are more like a saw than a razor.
On the other hand, if you are going to be using your knife to clean an animal you harvested, then you definitely need a smooth blade to avoid tearing up the meat or hide in the process. A smooth blade will glide through certain objects with ease, but it will take some extra effort when the object you are trying to get through takes some level of sawing back and forth with your knife’s blade to get through it. If the task you are on takes any amount of sawing, then you want a serrated blade to handle it because they will saw through an object faster than a smooth blade. The reason they take less effort to saw with is their many sharp teeth and the sharpened grooves in between them.
If you have chosen to get a folding knife for yourself, then the last choice you have to consider when shopping for a new knife is what kind of mechanics you want from your knife, or what kind of mechanism do you want. For example, do you want a folding knife that is opening assisted? This means that the knife blade folds into the handle to be carried in a pocket, purse, or bag/backpack and there is usually a spring of sorts that makes opening the blade all the way until it is in the locked position very easy.
You can typically swipe these knives open with a flick of the wrist and swipe of just one finger on the flipper. Knives that have this kind of action are sometimes referred to as slipjoint knives. The action of these knives is referred to as ‘assisted opening’ or ‘automatic’ instead of the regular ‘manual’ knives that take more effort to open, but the latter also stay shut better and have their place in your knife collection as well.
The automatic knives are great pocket knives if you use your knife all the time, like when it is always going in and out of your pocket all day long. On the other hand, if you only use your knife on occasion or only have it for defense/security, then this is just one more thing that can break or fail in a serious emergency. So, think about how you will use your knife most often before deciding on the mechanical action of a knife.
Once you have figured out your budget, the length of the knife, type of handle, serrated or smooth blade, and the mechanics of it, then you are ready to begin shopping for your next knife, but which are the best brands to pick from? Which knives are the most highly rated and come recommended by experts who use knives all the time? Well, we have the answers to these questions and more.
Top Rated Knife Brands
At this point, you may be asking yourself ‘what are the best knife brands?’ Well, there are a few exceptional brands that stand out above the rest of them, and they are better for a variety of reasons. Some are better than others at holding an edge and keeping from chipping, warping, bending, are easier to hone well (honing is the technical term for sharpening a knife’s blade edge). These premier brands of knives can be honed to a razor blade level of sharpness or even better in some circumstances.
These brands also make tougher knives that will survive through more abuse than other knife brand’s products. They were made to take a beating and keep going strong for many years. Although, depending on the amount of use your knife gets and on your honing skills a knife from any brand may need to be retired sooner than others. The key is that the best knife brands build their knives to last a decade or even multiple decades. That is if they are cared for and the owner learns to become a professional with their honing skills, then they can last a stunningly long time.
Therefore, it is often a clever idea to invest a little bit in your knife and get a better-quality knife even though it may cost a little bit more. It will actually save you money in the long run because you will not be replacing your knife every year or couple of years.
Here are the best-rated, top-of-the-line, all-around greatest knife brands. Plus, we included in this listing their best knife model for you to consider. Should it meet your needs perfectly, which many of these are so versatile that they meet all needs a person can have, then we provided a link to where you can find that knife for sale. We hope you find the perfect knife amongst these options, and we are sure that you will not find a better collection of knives and knife brands than what is below.
Editor’s Choice: Buck
The Buck knife brand has been around since 1941. This is when Hoyt Buck first started creating knives from his blacksmith shop in Idaho. Hoyt learned to make knives and to generally blacksmith, making many different types of items starting at the age of only 10 years old, in the year 1899. This gave him decades to perfect his craft, and he did just that.
The first versions of Buck’s knives, aka a Buck knife, are still around to this day in a small number of knife collections with very lucky owners. The motivation for him to begin making knives at this point in his life was that there was a call to the public from the government for fixed blade knives for the soldiers to carry into war with them during WWII.
After another half dozen years, Hoyt and his son moved to San Diego, California, and set up shop making knives, all of them by hand. Hoyt was a madman when it came to knife making and churned out a whopping 25 knives a week for a couple of years until he died in 1949.
Then Buck knives branched out and began mass-producing knives while doing everything in their power to retain that same quality level as those first knives that Hoyt made. The company has been passed down through five generations of owners now, all in the Buck family. It continues to be one of the best knife making brands ever created.
The thing that made Buck knives a household name was with their folding model of knife with the blade having a locking mechanism that made it as strong as a fixed blade. This revolutionized the knife industry, and the innovative design changed the way we carry knives to this day.
The quality level of Buck knives is unmatched. They put a ton of effort into quality control to make sure that no subpar knives make it into circulation with the Buck stamp on them. They take their name seriously and work hard to maintain that high-quality level they have come to be known for.
Ease of sharpening/How well they keep their edge
Hoyt Buck was one of the first to discover a new way of heat treating steel to create a harder edge that was easier to sharpen, could hold an edge better than previous knives, and was resistant to chipping or breaking. This new method of knife making has been handed down through the generations and is one of the reasons why Buck knives are so special.
Their edge is hard enough to hone to razor sharpness, yet it is also pliable enough to avoid knicks, bends, and warping. This means it holds that sharpness for longer and through more use than other knives. It is part of what makes Buck knives so special.
Feel in hand and use
The handles on Buck knives are very ergonomic and designed to be comfortable and are equipped with enough grip to keep from slipping. They made their knives to feel like an extension of your hand and fingers, and they give you ultimate control over the blade. You can clean a harvested animal in a short time and have it end up looking like an absolute professional butcher did the work when you use a Buck knife. They are outstanding knives that Buck makes, which are nearly unrivaled when it comes to comfort, control, and just in the way it feels to hold one of these knives.
Buck knives receive top honors with a 9.8 out of 10 rating.
113 Ranger Skinner is the best knife they have in our opinion. It offers supreme control over even the most precise movements and cuts. Plus, even someone with little to no experience can sharpen this blade to be razor fine without possessing real honing knowledge or skills. So, it is user friendly in every possible way. Also, it is extremely durable and made to take on all the abuse you can think of to put it through while still holding an exacting edge. This is because of the heat treatment and hardening process designed by Paul Bos of Buck Knives back in the 1960s. It creates the perfect hardness of the 420H steel that makes up the 3 1/8-inch blade.
Plus, because of new sustainable harvesting practices, Buck has been able to revive their Ebony wood handles that are nearly indestructible. They had to move to resin-based handles for a few years on most models because of the endangerment of the Ebony wood producing trees, but with a new company that has figured out a way to grow, harvest, and regrow the trees in a controlled setting within a relatively short time frame they have been able to return to the amazing handle material on the Ranger Skinner knives.
Some other models of Buck knives that deserve mentioning are the 119 and 124. Both of these offer wonderful features that match up to the 113, but they are not as universal in their uses. Instead, they are each designed to be used for more specific situations like the 6-inch blade of the 119 meant to be the ultimate camp knife and be used as a tool for a variety of tasks. You can chop through branches of a tree with that knife, although Buck Knife’s warranty does not cover using your knife as a hammer, chisel, or screwdriver. Which is funny because those are all tasks which the 119 is great for.
Runner Up: KA-Bar
KA-Bar began its knife-making journey around the turn of the 20th century. Created by Wallace Brown and his brother Emerson, later including their father in the company as well, they started as Union Razor Company. The name changed, the story goes, when Wallace received a bearskin sent to him by a very grateful outdoorsman who said that one of his company’s knives had saved the man’s life from a bear attack from a large Kodiak bear in Alaska. This made Mr. Brown think to himself that the name of a bear is pronounced “bar” in their area of New York and thus the name KA-Bar knives was born.
They made a name for themselves taking over many small cutlery companies and turning them into producers of the same models of knives with quality control and design specifications that the manufacturers were to follow to the tiniest detail. The company made its name because of the calling for fixed blade knives for soldiers during WWII and they supplied a vast number of their knives to this cause.
This led to their KA-Bar stamp becoming recognized by many soldiers as being a quality fighting/utility knife and this reputation carried on through the Korean and Vietnam wars through the next three decades. They started making knives specifically for the US Marine Corps in 1942 for the WWII effort and it soon became the sole manufacturer of all USMC issued fighting and utility knives.
This company makes amazing quality knives that have been tried and tested by soldiers and outdoorsman for decades now. They have been put to the test and proven themselves to be at the highest peak of performance-based knives. They come in at a remarkably close quality rating to the Buck knife brand when it comes to quality. In fact, the measurement between the two is like the distance of a width of a single hair, it is that close of a call. With a KA-Bar you could probably even split that hair in half and make the rating judgment even that much closer, they are that good.
Ease of sharpening/How well they keep their edge
The specifications of KA-Bar knives make them very easy to sharpen. Because they were designed to be used by soldiers, who often had a limited supply of tools while in battle or just in the field, the knives needed to be designed to be sharpened using less than optimum tools and they do just that. You can sharpen these knives with wet stones, dry stones, blade files, or any other sharpening tool you can think of and sharpened with ease using any one of them.
Then, because of the hardening process that they put their blades through, KA-Bar knives have a wonderful edge that is just hard enough to hone to fine, razor’s edge while being just soft enough to keep from being nicked, warped, or bent in even the tiniest way. This edge makes it possible for the easy sharpening to take place and until you try to use your knife as a sledgehammer, your knife’s edge will hold tight and remain extremely sharp.
Feel in hand and use
While many models feel slightly hefty in your hand, when it comes to maneuvering with a KA-Bar knife in your hand, you will barely notice it is there. It feels like it is a natural piece of your body and it flows nicely as you bend and turn in various ways trying to get that perfect angle to tackle any task you need a knife for. They were originally made to be combat knives. So, it is no wonder that they are great for moving around, and the fact that they feel so natural as an extension of your hand is well known.
KA-Bar, coming in at a close 2nd place for Editor’s Choice of knife brands receives a 9.2 out of 10.
A Becker BK2 is one of the best current models of KA-Bar knives. It is a 5.25-inch drop point fitted as a fixed blade design. Basically, it is a maneuverable blade with a belly in the blade edge leading up to the blade tip to allow for fine cutting and slicing instead of stabbing like some other types of points. This knife is manufactured by KA-Bar but was designed by Ethan Becker who founded Becker Knife & Tool Company.
He is an outdoorsman and martial artist who spends much of his time out in the woods testing new products to make sure his designs are the best there is and that they will function in the most strenuous of situations where other blades would fail or even break. With this model knife, he has created a masterpiece of cutlery tools that is extremely versatile, durable, sharp, natural feeling, and easy to use and hone.
Best Folding Knife: Gerber
The Gerber Knife Company is based out of the state of Oregon in the city of Tigard which is a suburb of Portland, and since they are part of the Northwest they have molded their knife lineup of products to be mountain strong. Their headquarters office sits just minutes from Mt. Hood and their employees are all outdoors types who enjoy using and testing their products just as much as they do making and selling them.
Gerber’s self-proclaimed slogan is that they are the “world’s largest multitool and knife manufacturer for the United States military.” They are the second leading manufacturer of multitools, next to Leatherman, and offer a variety of tools for various military professions. Everything from infantry focused blades to a knife with a partial tang for pilots to escape downed aircraft without getting shocked.
They sort of began their life as a company on a fluke situation. Joseph Gerber mailed out sets of handmade knives to friends, family, and clients of their advertising firm based out of Portland, Oregon. People loved the knives so much that they pestered Joseph until he agreed to begin producing them on a more massive scale to be featured in catalogs like Abercrombie and Fitch’s mail order catalog. The knives became such a major deal that they broke away from the advertising firm and created Gerber Blades and Tools.
Gerber knives, when it comes to quality, are one of the best value blades there is. They offer their superior products at reasonable prices. Their knives are amazing and are made to withstand a beating from a soldier in a war zone or an outdoor survivor type like Bear Grylls who is both things. He is a big promoter of the brand and hails their quality blades as being the best available and the most innovative designer of blades and multitools.
Ease of sharpening/How well they keep their edge
Everything from the folding Fastball models to the fixed blade StrongArm lineup of knives are all amazingly sharp and stunningly easy to hone. You will find the need to sharpen only comes once in a great while. With their premium level steel and their proprietary heat treatments for hardening that steel, combines to create a superior strength blade with an edge that holds through everything you could possibly need to put your knife through. Even with a full swing on a metal object, your blade’s edge will hold strong. So, go ahead and go nuts with a Gerber knife because not only will the edge hold through all kinds of abuse, but if you do manage to chip it somehow then they will deem it defective and repair or replace it as they see fit.
Feel in hand and use
With their extra grip on the handle attached to the tang on their fixed blade knives, you will find that your hand holds strong in any situation. There will be no slippage as you work with the blade through any task and this is doubly true with their folding blade designs that come with an ergonomic shape to fit perfectly in your closed fist of a hand. Once you wrap your fingers around a Gerber knife you will immediately understand the vice-like grip you have on all models they make.
We give Gerber a rating of 8.8 because they are premium quality knives for a less than premium price.
The Bear Grylls Sheath Knife is a wonderful product and of course it is since this bear of a man wouldn’t lend his name to anything less. The rugged design was built to withstand all the stressors of being out in the wild with little else for survival gear in your possession. You can do a whole lot with this great knife and be confident that it will hold its edge no matter what. Then, when the edge does begin to fade and dull you can very easily hone it with a variety of sharpening tools like wet stones, dry stones, or various files.
The knife’s handle has a lightly textured rubber reinforced grip for giving you the ultimate control over the knife’s blade when using it for those fine-tuning on cleaning animals or other sensitive tasks. Plus, the included sheath makes it easy to carry this knife on your belt or any kind of webbing on your pack or self. All around, the Bear Grylls folding knife with sheath is incredible, easy to use, easy to hone, keeps its edge better than others, and is just plain a top-shelf knife for a mid-level price.
Best Everyday Knife: ESEE
ESEE is a brand of knives that focuses solely on producing high-quality survival and camp knives for outdoor enthusiasts of all walks. They produce high-quality knives at a very reasonable cost and they have one of the greatest product warranties in the industry. If you experience any problem with your ESEE knife, then you can contact the company and let them know about your issue and they will do everything in their power to remedy the situation, even if that involves fully replacing your knife for no cost to you at all.
The brand originally started as Randall’s Adventure and Training Cutlery, or RAT for short, and they had their knives produced by Ontario – a manufacturing company known for making cutlery and other high-quality metal products. Eventually, RAT wanted to break away and begin manufacturing their knives themselves in order to have more control over the process and try new things or new designs for limited runs. Although, Ontario put up a fight and said that RAT was breaking a contract they had with them by producing knives themselves and after a long legal battle RAT just changed names to ESEE and began producing their own knives under the new product name.
They have been making knives for close to 40 years now, and in that time they have mastered the art of blade-making. Plus, their designs are wonderful for daily use knives to carry in your pocket everywhere you go. You never know when you will need a knife and an ESEE brand knife will fill that purpose to a supreme degree. Their knives were made for just this use and it is why they stand behind their products with such an extensive product warranty that they honor fully and wholeheartedly. In fact, they would rather run the risk of being taken advantage of and sending out free knives than take the risk of having an upset or unpleased customer out there. That is why they receive such glowing reviews from anyone who has dealt with their customer service, which is a rare thing, by the way, because of the intensely high quality of their knives.
Ease of sharpening/How well they keep their edge
The ESSE brand designed their knives to be used a whole lot and on an everyday carry kind of level. So, the edge of their blades is hardened to the perfect degree. They are manufactured this way especially to hold up to all the extra use and abuse. You can also hone their blades with ease and repair dings, flanges, bends, warps, or other minor defects in the edge caused by daily use on everything you can find to use one of these knives on. In the end, they made their knives to such immensely specific specifications that you can trust in the edge of your ESSE knife holding up through years of everyday carrying use, and you will assuredly get your money’s worth from any one of their knives.
Feel in hand and use
All ESSE knives have been manufactured to fit perfectly in the grip on anyone’s hands. They come in various sizes and shapes of handles for fitting a variety of different hand sizes and grip styles perfectly. So, you may want to check a few of them out to pick out the perfect one that will feel like they used a mold of your hand to create the grip on the handle. They feel so natural as an extension of your hand and arm that you will have a hard time not playing with your knife and many owners find themselves gripping the knife in their palm while it is in a pocket of their clothing to feel de-stressed because the grip feels so comfortable that it makes you feel happy and secure in all surroundings. They are like what a security blanket is for a little kid, but just made for adults.
The ESSE brand, being the best for everyday carrying on top of being great survival and camp knives as well, receives high marks from us with a rating of 8.7 out of 10.
The 3P Fixed Blade knife is a top-shelf option for an everyday carry knife that, after owning one for even a short while, you will feel naked without it on you. The versatility of these knives is incredible and they offer the owner supreme control over even the finest of blade manipulations and cuts. It has a blade that is just short of 4 inches and comes in 4 different color options from black or desert tan to OD green or uncolored stainless steel. They also have a variety of handle colors and offer an extensive list of aftermarket handles and accessories to make the knife personalized to be the perfect fitting knife for you and your specific carrying situation.
The knife was designed from input from soldiers and officers around the world. So, it is the pinnacle in tactical knives for carrying every day and ESSE made their 3P to withstand a ton of abuse. No matter what you put this knife through it will come through relatively unscathed, and even if you do run into an issue or god forbid manage to break a blade somehow, then they will repair or replace your knife for the rest of your life. They honor this warranty with conviction. So, if you invest the money to get a 3P, then you have made the last knife purchase you will ever need to make for pocketknives for the rest of your life.
All of these brands are wonderful options and each makes impressive quality knives for everything from hunters and outdoorsman to survivalists, soldiers, and even cops. No matter what you want to carry your knife into, there is an option within these few brands to fit that niche perfectly. Just make sure you follow the Buyer’s Guide aspects and questions we laid out above and you will easily find the perfect knife for your specific situation.
Knives are such an important tool, and the invention of the modern heat-treated and hardened steel blades, altered the course of human history forever. Making great knives available to any citizen worldwide and for us all to be able to afford one for ourselves, changed the way we live in many aspects. It was a wonderful step forward into convenient living for all the people of the world. The versatility pocketknives give us and the capabilities it opened up for us all was unprecedented. You can do so much with a good quality pocketknife that you become a more productive and useful member of society when you decide to carry one on a daily basis.
Then there are survival, outdoor, hunting, and camp knives. These models offer the outdoorsman plenty of security and offer all of us the ability to manage ourselves while out in the wilderness to a much higher degree of success. We all appreciate the world that these knives have opened up for us, and look forward to seeing the progression of knife designs in the future and wonder what is around the corner of time and where the art of blade-making will lead to next.