The Best Pocket Knives of 2017By Jonathan Chan
Whether you're peeling apples on the fly or cutting seat belts in an emergency, a pocket knife is one of most the useful tools around. It's also one of the most versatile, just as likely to be used to slice open a box as it is to whittle a piece of wood or saw through rope. And if it's versatility you're after, you won't be disappointed with our favorite Spyderco Delica4 (available at Amazon for $67.31).
There are lots of pocket knives on the market, and with a variety of options, it can be tough to know which knives are worth the money. We researched dozens of blades and chose 7 of the top pocket knives out there to put to work in our labs.
Now, after two weeks of testing and heavy use, we're confident that we can recommend the best pocket knives for everyday carriers and occasional users alike.
In order, these are our favorites:
- Spyderco Delica 4
- Benchmade 556
- Columbia River Knife and Tool 6450K
- SOG Flash II
- Buck Ranger
- Opinel N 08
- Tac-Force Rescue Folding Knife
Updated December 02, 2017
Spyderco Delica4Best Overall
Why we picked this: The Delica4 is an excellent example of a wharncliffe blade (that's a shape of blade), which is great for a number of tasks, like precision cuts.
Specs: Made in Japan. 2.56-inch cutting edge. 4.25-inch closed length. 5.25-inch open length. Weighs 2.28 ounces.
The details: The Spyderco Delica4 is the perfect blend of easy-to-use and versatile. The knife stands out from its competitors in two major ways: it has a thumb hole and a wharncliffe blade.
The thumb hole is a great feature because it gives you better control over what you're doing with the blade. After spending weeks opening and closing knives for eight hours a day, we can also say that it's easier on your hands. And while you might think that a big hole in the back of the blade would weaken it, the Delica is made of VG-10 steel. This alloy is known for its durability, resistance to rust, and its ability to hold an edge. Ever wonder how Japanese sushi chefs cut sashimi so cleanly? VG-10 steel.
Durable material doesn't mean much if you don't have the design to utilize it well, but luckily the Delica's wharncliffe blade is quite capable. The triangular-shaped knife might be shorter than others we tested, but it allows for greater control because your entire index finger can fit over the top of the blade. The knife was able to handle more delicate tasks like peeling an apple or stenciling with impressive precision.
With a combination of high-quality material, easy-to-open design, and precision cutting, the Spyderco Delica4 is our top pick.
Columbia River Knife and Tool 6450K Drifter
Columbia River Knife and Tool 6450K DrifterBest Value
Why we picked this: The 6450K is a highly affordable pocket knife.
Specs: Made in China. 2.875-inch cutting edge. 3.54-inch closed length. 6.3-inch open length. Weighs 2.22 ounces.
The Columbia River Knife and Tool 6450K Drifter retails for around $25, and gives you the most bang for your buck of all the knives we tested. The blade is made of 8Cr14MoV–which is short for middle-of-the-road Chinese steel with lots of carbon. This material is known for being utterly average when it comes to resistance to wear and ability to hold an edge.
The testing really reflected this, with the Drifter giving a performance that landed it in the middle of the pack. When we used it to open a box, the Drifter easily cut through packing tape, but by the time we were done, the knife was covered in sticky goo. And while it managed to slice cleanly through a length of rope, its short cutting edge required the most strokes of any knife we tested.
In grand scheme of things, the Drifter is an entry-level model. If you're not sure you'll want to use your pocket knife every day, this is a good starter knife.
Benchmade Griptillian 551
Benchmade Griptillian 551Best For Everyday Carry
Why we picked this: The 551BK combines practicality with beautiful design.
Specs: Made in America. 3.45-inch cutting edge. 4.62-inch closed length. 8.07-inch open length. Weighs 3.88 ounces.
The details: Laid out on a table, the Benchmade Griptillian 551BK invokes images of a black-and-white commercial with suave voice over, accompanied by panning shots of wine glasses. It's just that good-looking—and we're happy to say the performance isn't too shabby either.
The 551BK is made from 154CM steel, which is slightly softer then VG-10, but makes it easier to sharpen the blade. During testing, we found that the 551BK was one of the sharpest knives right out of the box. It placed among the top two blades in our rope-cutting, soap-carving, and ice-chopping tests. Even after striking the knife with a hammer, the blade stayed firmly in place. We also found the blade insanely smooth to open, proving even easier to deploy than the assisted-open knives we tested.
The model we ordered had a drop point blade, but you can customize the knife with a sheep's foot or tanto tip if you are interested. However, take heed before you order—this beauty will set you back about $100.
Everyday carry enthusiasts who want to invest in a good pocket knife: this is the one to get.
How we tested
I'm Jon Chan, product technician, everyday carry enthusiast, and staff writer. I have carried a pocket knife nearly every day for about a decade now, and I'm always researching the latest and greatest. I also come from a family of Chinese restaurant workers, which means I'm well-versed in the importance of respecting and maintaining a keen blade. At work in the Reviewed testing labs, I frequently need to pull a knife from my pocket to open packages and cut zip ties.
We tested pocket knives to determine their utility, ease of use, and portability. The utility testing consisted of cutting rope, carving wood, chopping ice, popping zip ties, and opening packages. We made note of how efficiently each knife handled each task. Top-performing knives were also used for more precise work, like whittling soap and peeling apples.
As we put the knives through these tests, we paid extra attention to whether they felt comfortable to hold and use. We noted how easy they were to open and close, and we researched blade materials to gain insight into what users could expect from the blades in terms of sharpening, holding an edge, and general durability. Blade materials matter, and each knife we tested is made out of a different kind of steel.
Pocket knives are also prized for their portability, so we factored each knife's weight and size into our scoring, as well as whether or not they had a pocket clip.
Other Pocket Knives We Tested
SOG Flash II
Where To Buy$52.27 Amazon Buy
SOG Flash II
Why we picked it: The SOG Flash II is a popular assisted-open knife with some great features.
Specs: Made in Taiwan. 3.5-inch cutting edge. 4.5-inch closed length. 8-inch open length. Weighs 3.1 ounces.
The SOG Flash II is a serious tool. The version we tested had a partially serrated blade, a tanto point, and was coated in black titanium nitride. What separates the Flash II from a model like the Griptillian 551, which we prefer for everyday carry, is the fact that it has an assisted-open mechanism. The Flash II is spring-loaded so that a flick of the thumb stud will pop the knife open. At first, the mechanism is a real thumb-bruiser, but over a few weeks of use, we found it became much less stiff. If you have any safety concerns about the assisted-open, don't worry—there's also a safety latch so it won't go off in your pocket accidentally.
The blade is made from Aus-8 steel, which is well-regarded in the knife collector world for how easy it is to sharpen. However, be aware that knives that sharpen easily won't hold an edge for as long as knives made from harder materials. That doesn't mean the Flash II is substandard, though—we found that the serrated blade could saw through a tree branch, and the straight edge could cut through 1/4" nylon rope in about two light strokes.
The Flash II is a solid product that would be great for someone looking to add to their pocket knife collection, but it may be too much for anyone looking for a simple starter knife.
Buck Ranger 112BRS
Buck Ranger 112BRS
Why we picked it: It's a classic.
Specs: Made in America. 3-inch cutting edge. 4.25-inch closed length. 7-inch open length. Weighs 6.14 ounces.
The Buck 112 Ranger reminds us of the pocket knives that you see in old cowboy movies—which is to say it has a great, rugged look. The unfolded 420HC steel blade is sleek from the tip of the clip point to the base. However, testing proved this knife to be more beauty than beast. We understand that a thumb stud would ruin the aesthetic, but the trade-off is you need two hands to pry the thing open. The Ranger's good looks don't really hold up during use, either, as the brass over the tang picks up smudges and finger prints.
On the performance front, the Buck Ranger is just okay. The knife aced our rope-cutting and wood-carving tests, but it was so tough to open and close that it was hard to enjoy the experience of using it. We think it would make a pretty gift, but it's too heavy and hard to handle for use as a general every-day blade.
Opinel N°8 Carbone
Where To BuyClick for price Amazon Buy
Opinel N°8 Carbone
Why we picked it: Because rough-and-tumble knives are not for everyone.
Specs: Made in France. 3.35-inch cutting edge. 4.5-inch closed length. 7.5-inch open length. Weighs 1.59 ounces.
The Opinel N°8 is the most cultured knife we tested. In the book A History of the Garden in Fifty Tools, author Bill Laws writes that Picasso favored an Opinel for carving figurines.
With a beech wood handle, you should think of the Opinel as more of a folding kitchen knife than a pocket tool. It peels an apple just fine, but the lack of a locking mechanism made us uncomfortable when we were using it for more robust tasks. Light and fairly sharp, the Opinel is a knife to take picnicking. The design won't raise eyebrows if you take it out in sunny park.
Tac Force TF-723EM
Tac Force TF-723EM
Why we picked it: The Tac Force is designed for use in emergencies.
Specs: Made in China. 3.5-inch cutting edge. 5.12-inch closed length. 8.27-inch open length. Weighs 4.21 ounces.
The Tac Force TF-723EM is an emergency rescue knife. You'll find a glass breaker and seat belt cutter located at the bottom of the handle, which sets the knife apart from the other ones we tested. However, the blade's assisted-open mechanism was not particularly smooth during testing, and the 440 stainless steel blade didn't prove all that sharp. That said, this is an under-$20 knife with a built-in glass breaker and seat belt cutter, not an intricate whittling tool. Buy one and keep it in your car, just in case.