The Best Folding Knives for Self-Defense: Pocket-Sized Protection

Last Updated: by Aiden Williams

Whether you need a folding knife to protect yourself or survive in the wilderness, you must get a reliable pocket knife. It just might even get you out of dangerous situations. However, the topic of folding knives for self-defense is very controversial territory.

Many people insist that you shouldn’t use a knife for self-defense unless you have been trained. Without proper training, it can turn very messy very quickly. You might end up getting stabbed or have a traumatizing experience.

That being said, several top knife producers have manufactured some of the most reliable blades on the planet. Some have big blades, which can be very intimidating; therefore, they can scare away potential attackers. However, the best self-defense pocket knives have a smaller blade and are discreet.

Self-defense knives can perform several functions and vary in size. The most important fact is that they are ideal for EDC and can get you out of a sticky bind.

Either way carrying a self-defense pocket knife is a great responsibility. And that is why we have created a list of some of the best pocket knives for self-defense.

Our favorite self-defense knife is Spyderco Matriarch 2, as it is comfortable to use and has a reverse “S” shaped blade. This knife comes with a 2-step serration pattern (1 bigger and 2 smaller serration patterns). This unique serration pattern increases Spyderco Matriarch 2’s cutting edge by 24%.

The Best Folding Knives For Self-Defense Are…

ProductDetails
1. Spyderco Matriarch 2

  • Emerson opener
  • Fiberglass reinforced nylon handle
  • A 3.57-inch long VG-10 blade
  • Reverse "S" shaped serrated blade
  • Pocket clip
  • Grippy handle
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2. Gerber 06 Fast Knife

  • Patented F.A.S.T blade deploying system
  • Textured G-10 handle
  • Partially serrated blade
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Sturdy pocket clip
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3. Benchmade Bugout

  • Ambidextrous grivory handle
  • Reversible pocket clip
  • Lanyard hole
  • A CPM-S30V steel blade
  • Lightweight
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4. Zero Tolerance ZT0350TS

  • Durable S30V steel blade
  • Grippy G-10 handle
  • Quad-mount pocket clip
  • Diamond-like carbon coating
  • Kershaw's SpeedSafe Assisted opening system
  • Liner locking system
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5. Cold Steel Recon-1 Pocket Knife

  • A 4-inch tanto blade
  • A lever lock
  • Reversible belt clip
  • A G-10 handle
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6. Kershaw Brawler Folding Knife

  • A 3-inch tanto blade
  • 4-position pocket clip
  • Liner locking system
  • SpeedSafe assisted opening
  • Glass-filled nylon handle
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7. Spyderco Yojimbo 2 Pocket Knife

  • A 3.2-inch Wharncliffe blade
  • A G-10 handle
  • 4-position pocket clip
  • Compression lock mechanism
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8. Benchmade 940-1 Pocket Knife

  • A 3.4-inch reverse tanto blade
  • Axis locking system
  • Standard reversible clip
  • A 6061-T6 aluminum handle
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9. Smith and Wesson SWMP4LS

  • Finger actuator
  • Black aluminum handle with tuber inlay
  • A 3.6 inches HC stainless steel blade
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Liner locking system
  • Convenient pocket clip
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1. Spyderco Matriarch 2 — Best Self-Defense Folding Knife

Spyderco Matriarch 2 Lightweight Folding Knife - Black FRN Handle with SpyderEdge, Hollow Grind, VG-10 Steel Black Blade and Back Lock - C12SBBK2W

Matriarch 2 is an affordable and smaller version of the Spyderco Civilian. Matriarch 2 is a reliable self-defense knife that comes with a reverse “S” shaped blade. The tip of this blade is curved downwards while the wider cutting part creates a convex arc.

This fully-serrated blade can slice through anything. Plus, it has a 2-step serration pattern that includes 2 smaller and 1 bigger serration. This pattern increases this knife’s cutting edge by up to 24%. As a self-defense knife the Matriarch 2 will cut hard and deep thanks to its reverse “S” shaped serrated blade.

The Matriarch 2 comes with a grippy handle that is made from fiberglass-reinforced nylon. Matriarch 2 is one of the best self-defense pocket knives in the market.

However, unlike other folding knives that are multi-purposed, matriarch 2 is not the best EDC tool. Even though you can use it to do specific tasks, it is not the best option.

Specs

  • Emerson opener
  • Fiberglass reinforced nylon handle
  • A 3.57-inch long VG-10 blade
  • Reverse “S” shaped serrated blade
  • Pocket clip
  • Grippy handle

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Pros

  • Razor-sharp serrated blade
  • Durable
  • Easy to use
  • Its blade can cut deep and hard

Cons

  • The matriarch is quite useless as an EDC tool.

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5

Conclusion

Since its S-shaped blade cannot handle a wide range of tasks, the matriarch 2 is not the best EDC. Therefore, it can only function as a self-defense weapon.

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2. Gerber 06 Fast Knife

Gerber 06 FAST Knife, Serrated Edge, Tanto [30-000118],Black

Gerber 06 is a huge tactical pocket knife that comes with a tanto blade and a G-10 handle. Gerber 06 comes with a 3.75 inches long tanto shaped blade that is perfect for thrusting. Plus, the fact that it is partially serrated means that it can cut through several materials.

Its razor-sharp and durable blade is made from 7Cr17MoV stainless steel. The 7Cr17MoV offers excellent edge retention and rust-resistant levels.

For extra grip, Gerber added several textured scales on the G-10 handle. Therefore, you will never have to worry about it slipping off your hands even when doing tough tasks.

One of the main features that make it a great self-defense is its F.A.S.T assisted opening technology. Gerber 06 can be opened using one hand. With one hand, the blade can be opened at least 10-degrees, allowing the spring to open it at a very fast rate.

The partially serrated blade is perfect for both ripping and cutting. However, this knife has a very stiff locking system, and many people have argued that it is made using low-quality materials.

Specs

  • Patented F.A.S.T blade deploying system
  • Textured G-10 handle
  • Partially serrated blade
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Sturdy pocket clip

Pros

  • Versatile and practical
  • Razor-sharp blade
  • Durable and strong
  • Easy to use
  • A fast blade deployment mechanism

Cons

  • Stiff locking system

Overall rating: 4.4 out of 5

Conclusion

With its partially serrated tanto blade, G-10 handle, and F.A.S.T deployment system, Gerber 06 can get you out of dangerous situations.

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3. Benchmade Bugout

Benchmade Blue Class Bugout Axis Drop Point - 535bk-2 Plain Edge Black Blade, One Size

Thanks to its high-quality CPM-S30V steel blade, the Bugout can serve as a self-defense knife. And the fact that it is as light as a feather makes it an ideal EDC self-defense blade. Bugout merges a drop point blade with an ambidextrous handle.

Its blade is made from CPM-S30V steel for high rust-resistance and edge-retention levels. For a perfect grip and durability, Benchmade made Bugout’s handle from glass-filled nylon.

Bugout is quite easy to lock and open to the Axis locking mechanism. The Axis mechanism allows you to open and close the blade smoothly and safely.

For easy carrying, it comes with a reversible pocket clip and a lanyard hole. The major drawback of this tool is that it can be a tad light for some users. But, its weight is what makes it a great EDC.

Specs

  • Ambidextrous grivory handle
  • Reversible pocket clip
  • Lanyard hole
  • A CPM-S30V steel blade
  • Lightweight

Pros

  • High edge-retention level
  • High rust-resistance level
  • Razor-sharp blade
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • A perfect EDC

Cons

  • Can be a bit light for some users

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5

Conclusion

The Bugout can be an excellent self-defense and EDC tool without being too edgy and too heavy.

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4. Zero Tolerance ZT0350TS

Zero Tolerance 0350TS; Folding Pocket Knife; 3.25 in. S30V Stainless Steel Blade with Tiger-Stripe Tungsten DLC Coating, G-10 Handle, SpeedSafe Assisted Opening and Quad-Mount Pocketclip; 6.2 OZ.

If you are an EDC enthusiast, then you already know the reputation of the Zero Tolerance knife. The strength of a knife is determined by blade material. And Zero Tolerance’s CPM S30V steel blade is a testament to the quality of this tool.

CPM S30V is a high-quality metal ranked together with other high-end alloys like M390 and ELMAX steels. The High-quality blade material makes this self-defense tool extremely durable and versatile. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about it breaking. Plus, it has high wear-resistant and rust-resistant levels.

This sturdy blade is merged with a black G-10 handle to create an aggressive and wild tool. The tiger-striped blade can tackle a wide range of tasks, both outdoor and indoor. It can also serve as a reliable self-defense tool. The handle is quite grippy.

You shouldn’t worry about your hand slipping from the handle to the blades when using it. And the flipper makes it easy to open. Weighing about 6.2 ounces, this knife can be quite heavy for some users.

Specs

  • Durable S30V steel blade
  • Grippy G-10 handle
  • Quad-mount pocket clip
  • Diamond-like carbon coating
  • Kershaw’s SpeedSafe Assisted opening system
  • Liner locking system

Pros

  • Durable
  • Razor-sharp
  • Fast deployment
  • Slim enough to fit in your pocket
  • Grippy handle

Cons

  • Weighing about 6.2 ounces, this tool can be bulky for some users.

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5

Conclusion

As a reliable self-defense blade, this tool is sturdy, razor-sharp, grippy, and light enough. And its unique design can surprise and even scare away any attacker.

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5. Cold Steel Recon-1 Pocket Knife

Cold Steel Recon 1 Folder Clip Pt. 4In Bold 9-3/8In Overall Folding Camping Knives, Black

Recon 1 is one of the world’s best self-defense folding knives in terms of grip. Recon 1 is quite popular with fire and rescue crews and law enforcement and military personnel.

Sturdy as a tank and sharp as a scalpel, the recon is an ideal self-defense tool that is ready for numerous tasks. Recon 1 merges a 4 inches long tanto blade with a G-10 handle. Its blade is made from AUS 8A steel with a sturdy Tuff-Ex coating.

For easy carry, it comes with a reversible belt-clip on its handle. Weighing about 5.2 ounces, Recon 1 is available in multiple options, including XL, mini, and micro.

This folding knife’s blade can be easily locked in place using a lever lock. The G-10 handle feels comfortable in anyone’s hands, and the Tri-Ad lock helps keep your fingers safe. However, Recon 1 can be a tad hefty for some users.

Specs

  • A 4-inch tanto blade
  • A lever lock
  • Reversible belt clip
  • A G-10 handle

Pros

  • Durable
  • Razor-sharp blade
  • Tanto blade is perfect for self-defense knives
  • Heavy duty
  • High edge-retention level

Cons

  • Recon 1 can be a tad heavy for some users.

Overall rating: 4.7 out of 5

Conclusion

Cold steel Recon 1 is one of the best tactical knives in terms of grip thanks to its G-10 handle. And the fact that it’s popular with military personnel shows that it is a great self-defense blade.

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6. Kershaw Brawler Folding Knife

Kershaw Brawler Folding Pocket Knife (1990) with 3” Black-Oxide Finished High-Performance 8Cr13MoV Steel Blade; Black Glass-Filled Nylon Handle Scales with Reversible 4-Position Pocketclip; 3.9 oz

Kershaw Brawler is a beautifully designed folding knife that merges a 3 inches long tanto blade with a unique handle. Its blade is made from 8Cr13Mov stainless steel with black-oxide finish.

The 8Cr13Mov stainless steel gives this blade high edge-retention and rust-resistance levels. Kershaw Brawler’s handle features black glass-filled nylon scales for a perfect grip. For fast deployment, it has Kershaw’s SpeedFast Assisted Opening system.

The liner locking system helps lock the blade securely in place and also prevents unwanted blade closure. Kershaw Brawler is a great tool that can handle a wide range of tasks, including opening cans and cutting cords.

Therefore, it is a reliable companion for gardeners, anglers, backpackers, and hikers. For easy carrying, this knife features a reversible 4-position pocket clip. Weighing 3.9 ounces, this tool can be quite light for some users.

Specs

  • A 3-inch tanto blade
  • 4-position pocket clip
  • Liner locking system
  • SpeedSafe assisted opening
  • Glass-filled nylon handle

Pros

  • Durable
  • Razor-sharp blade
  • Big enough to be a great self-defense tool
  • High edge-retention rate
  • High rust-resistance level
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Its liner locking system cannot withstand too much force

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5

Conclusion

Kershaw Brawler is an effective and affordable blade that is ideal; for self-defense and EDC.

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7. Spyderco Yojimbo 2 Pocket Knife

Spyderco Yojimbo 2 Signature Tactical Folding Knife with 3.2" CPM S30V Steel Black Wharncliffe Blade and Durable Black G-10 Handle - PlainEdge - C85GP2

Yojimbo 2 is an upgraded version of its predecessor Spyderco Yojimbo. Janich Michael, a popular defense instructor, designed this blade for self-defense purposes.

Yojimbo 2 is a great defense tool that can also tackle several tasks, including opening boxes and serve as an EDC knife. With a closed length of 4.5 inches, Yojimbo can fit perfectly in anyone’s pocket. Plus, you can use its sharp blade for cutting, stabbing, and slashing.

Yojimbo 2 features a 3.2 inches Wharncliffe blade that is made from CPM 330V steel. The refined ergonomics of this knife complements the natural contours of your hand. However, its blade is thinner than that of other EDC blades; therefore, it can chip if used for regular purposes.

Specs

  • A 3.2-inch Wharncliffe blade
  • A G-10 handle
  • 4-position pocket clip
  • Compression lock mechanism

Pros

  • Durable
  • Razor-sharp blade
  • High edge-retention level
  • High rust-resistance level
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Its thin blade can chip if used on regular tasks.

Overall rating: 4.7 out of 5

Conclusion

Janich Michael designed this knife specifically for self-defense purposes. And its razor-sharp Wharncliffe blade and lightweight makes it a great self-defense knife.

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8. Benchmade 940-1 Pocket Knife

Benchmade - Nakamura Axis 484-1 Knife, Plain Drop-Point, Carbon Fiber Handle

Benchmade 940 is one of the world’s best tactical knives that merges S30V stainless steel with an aluminum handle. This quintessential tool combines Benchmade simplicity with unmatched functionality.

Benchmade 940 features a 3.4 inches long reverse tanto blade that is made for the outdoors. The CPM-S30V steel blade has high corrosion-resistance and edge-retention levels. It has a 6061-T6 aluminum handle that provides a smooth satin grip.

For extra safety and smooth closing and opening, this Benchmade knife comes with an Axis locking mechanism. Weighing 2.9 ounces, this tool is light as a feather and quite comfortable to use.

For easy carrying, it has a standard reversible pocket clip. Benchmade 940 can be a bit light for some users, especially the ones with big hands.

Specs

  • A 3.4-inch reverse tanto blade
  • Axis locking system
  • Standard reversible clip
  • A 6061-T6 aluminum handle

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Razor-sharp blade
  • High edge-retention rate
  • High rust-resistance level
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to carry

Cons

  • Can be a bit light for some people

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5

Conclusion

Benchmade 940 is a reliable mid-sized tactical blade that is easy to use. And the fact that it is light makes it a perfect self-defense and EDC tool.

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9. Smith and Wesson SWMP4LS

Smith & Wesson SWMP4LS 8.6in S.S. Assisted Folding Knife with 3.6in Serrated Clip Point Blade and Aluminum Handle for Outdoor Tactical Survival and EDC

SWMP4LS is a reliable sharp blade that can serve as both a tactical and EDC tool. The SWMP4LS has an open length of about 8.6 inches, which makes it an excellent self-defense tool.

The SWMP4LS merges an aluminum handle and a 4034 black HC stainless steel blade. Thanks to its safety lock and liner lock, you will never have to worry about the blade slipping while working.

This knife comes with a 3.2 inches long blade with both straight edge and serrations. SWMP4LS’s blade comes razor-sharp from the factory. The partial serration is perfect for cutting cords. For easy carrying, it comes with a convenient pocket clip.

And its M.A.G.I.C assisted opening and finger actuator makes it an ideal EDC. This knife has a sharp blade, but re-sharpening the serrations can be quite challenging.

Specs

  • Finger actuator
  • Black aluminum handle with tuber inlay
  • A 3.6 inches HC stainless steel blade
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Liner locking system
  • Convenient pocket clip

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Durable
  • High edge-retention rate
  • High rust-resistance level
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Re-sharpening the serrated edge can be quite challenging.

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5

Conclusion

SWMP4LS is a high-quality knife that comes with both straight edge and serration, making it a perfect EDC.

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Buyers Guide: Things To Consider When Looking For A Self-Defense Folding Knife

Self-defense pocket knives are practical blades that can be used for EDC and tactical purposes. These knives are intimidating and very sharp. Honestly, any knife can serve as a self-defense tool, but some of these folding knives are designed specifically for tactical purposes.

Therefore, when looking for the best folding knives for self-defense, there are things you must consider. Some of these things include budget, weight, design, and durability, among others.

Self-defense pocket knives are famous everyday carry blades that are loved by many enthusiasts. These knives incorporate a wide variety of crucial features that make them stand out.

Here are some essential things that you must consider when buying a self-defense knife:

Legality

The first thing you should always consider, even before you start your search for an ideal knife, is the local laws. Confirm your town’s knives laws, especially if it is legal to carry a self-defense pocket knife.

Find out the restrictions and requirements for carrying a concealed knife. Remember, even if you are protecting yourself, if carrying pocket knives is illegal, you are breaking the law.

Automatic knives are illegal in several cities, and you can be charged for breaking the law if you are found with it. Therefore, make sure all your knives, whether for EDC or self-defense, meet your town’s legal requirements.

You might end up protecting yourself but be charged for carrying an illegal blade. Lawyers can convince the jury that you went out in search of a fight. And this will make your self-defense claim less believable.

A knife that is legal in your city might be illegal in another state and vice versa. So make you find out the knife laws of any area you plan to visit.

Size of the Knife

Any knife can scare anyone who wants to harm you. But, a huge knife is not tactical friendly, and its large dimension makes it impossible to use. The bigger the blade, the harder it is to swing around.

Therefore, the best tactical tools have shorter blades. One of the main reasons why self-defense knives have short blades is because they are not meant to be lethal. You have a low probability of killing someone when defending yourself with a knife with a small blade than a big one.

Smaller pocket knives are easier to conceal and carry. After all, you don’t want to carry a bulky butcher knife as your tactical blade when jogging in the morning. But, make sure you are not stuck with a microblade, either.

Accessibility

Owning a fast-opening pocket knife will not help in case of an emergency if you cannot access it easily. Therefore when looking for a tactical blade, make sure you get one that can be kept in an easily accessible region. Pocket knives are definitely the best since you can easily reach your pocket and remove them.

However, not all knives can fit in your pocket, so the best option is a knife that can be attached to your belt or neck. A tactical tool that can be concealed around your ankle is also perfect for self-defense purposes.

Deployment Speed

A self-defense situation can occur at any time; therefore, your EDC’s deployment speed is crucial. That is why we believe that the best tactical knives are the ones that are easy to use and can be deployed quickly.

The deployment speed of your blade can increase your probability of surviving an attack. Assisted-opening knives and automatic knives can be opened very quickly.

Manual, tactical knives are the slowest folding knives, even though some can be opened quickly.

Concealability

If your self-defense knife is not well hidden, your attackers can disarm you even before the confrontation starts. Or the attackers will see your blade before you even use it; therefore, you will lose your element of surprise.

Some people believe that you should keep your blade hidden until the time you want to use it. Others believe that you should show your attacker when drawing it so that you can scare them away. Either way, a concealed knife can give you a chance to surprise your attacker while the obvious ones don’t.

Blade Material

Another thing that defines a tactical knife is the durability of its blade. A self-defense knife should have a strong blade that can withstand high pressures. Remember, you can end up stabbing a wall or the ground if your attacker misses.

Therefore, the blade’s ability to survive such an impact will determine the success of your defense. A huge percentage of tactical knives are made from numerous steel alloys. Some of the most common alloys include 7Cr17MoV, CPM S30V, and 8Cr13Mov stainless steel. These alloys are durable, rust-resistant, and have high edge retention levels.

Other than being razor-sharp, self-defense blades need to have pointy tips and a wide at the cutting area. A sharp tanto, Sheepfoot, or Wharncliffe blades can function perfectly as self-defense tools. Another thing to look out for is the edge type. Partially serrated and fully serrated blades are more useful as tactical tools that plain edged knives.

Handle

The handles of tactical tools should be comfortable to use and fit perfectly in your hands. Make sure it comes with finger contours and scales. Remember, a knife with a slippery handle can end up injuring you during a fight.

Other Functions

Dangerous situations don’t arise every day; therefore, carrying a tactical blade can be tedious. So, instead of purchasing a blade that can only function as a tactical tool, why don’t you get a multi-purpose knife? An excellent self-defense tool should also be able to function as a normal EDC blade.

Remember, if you focus on only the tactical part, you might end up buying two knives. One for tactical purposes and the other for everyday carry. And carrying two blades everywhere you go can be tedious.

Final Thoughts

Self-defense pocket knives are reliable everyday carry tools that can tackle a wide variety of jobs. They are durable, grippy, lightweight, and razor-sharp tools that can protect you from an attacker.

And the fact that you can conceal them is a bonus. However, carrying some concealed knives is illegal in several jurisdictions. So, before you start your search for the best tactical blade, you should find out if carrying a concealed knife is legal in your town.

Everybody needs a reliable self-defense knife to protect themselves from attackers. These knives come in a wide variety of sizes, prices, and shapes. However, selecting the best pocket knife for self-defense can be quite challenging. Therefore, we have prepared the above list of self-defense pocket knives just for you.

From our research, we concluded that the Spyderco Matriarch 2 is the best self-defense folding knife in the market. Spyderco Matriarch 2 is a smaller version of Spyderco Civilian that can scare away an attacker. It is durable that can cut hard and deep thanks to its reverse “S” shaped blade.

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