Best Rescue Knife — Top Models for First Responders and Firefighters

Last Updated: by Aiden Williams

A rescue knife is the ultimate edge tool for emergencies, and firefighters and first responders have to have it their gear.

It can be readily and easily deployed with one hand. The best model has to have a blade that’s able to free people who are trapped by seat belts, and a glass breaker for windows when doors are jammed.

A rescue knife also has a serrated edge for cutting tough webbing material in close proximity to human flesh.

But, the number of choices is daunting, which means you have to do a little research to find the right model, hence this rescue knife review.

In my selections, I took into account all the important features you would want the best rescue knife to have during a rescue operation.

The Spyderco Atlantic Salt Rescue Folding Knife is the most liked and a bestseller because of its great corrosion resistance, cutting performance, quick and easy deployment, and it balances perfectly in the hand.

The Best Rescue Knives Are:

ProductDetails
1. Spyderco Atlantic Salt Rescue Folding Knife

  • 8.27-inch blade length
  • 3.68-inch blade length
  • 0.55-inch round hole diameter
  • Back lock mechanism
  • FRN handle scales
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2. Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife

  • 8.5-inch overall length
  • 3.5-inch blade length
  • 440A blade steel
  • Rugged nylon handle
  • Nine-piece tool kit
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3. Swiss Safe 3-In-1 EMT/EMS Tactical Knife

  • 8.5-inch overall length
  • 3.5-inch blade length
  • Lightweight aluminum handle
  • Spring-assisted opening
  • Integrated belt cutter and glass breaker
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4. Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS Rescue Knife

  • 10-inch overall length
  • 4.4-inch blade length
  • 7Cr17MoV black oxide blade steel
  • Black aluminum handle slabs with Trac-Tec inserts
  • Serrations and blood grooves
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5. StarGear T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Knife

  • 5-inch overall length
  • 3-1/4-inch blade length
  • 440C stainless steel blade and seatbelt cutter
  • Emergency LED light
  • Spring-loaded window punch
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6. Kershaw Funxion 8100 Multifunction Folding Knife

  • 7.25-inch overall length
  • 3-inch blade length
  • 8Cr13MoV blade steel
  • SpeedSafe assisted opening
  • Glass-filled nylon handles
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1. Spyderco Atlantic Salt Rescue Folding Knife — Top Rescue Knife

Spyderco Atlantic Salt Lightweight Folding Knife with 3.68" Corrosion Resistant H-1 Sheepfoot Blade and Durable Hi-Viz Yellow FRN Handle - SpyderEdge - C89SYL

The Spyderco Atlantic Salt was made with one thing in mind, rescue operation. Through the use of exotic blade steel and handles with plenty of traction, this knife was made to be the ideal companion when you need it the most.

Specs

  • 27-inch blade length
  • 68-inch blade length
  • 55-inch round hole diameter
  • Back lock mechanism
  • FRN handle scales

This amazing knife is made from H-1 steel, which is great because this material has exceptional corrosion and pitting resistance.

This blade material is a nitrogen-enriched tool steel that offers impeccable edge retention that can rival many of today’s modern super steels. The hollow grind blade has two-step serration patterns for quick and effective cutting of fibrous materials during a rescue, such as a car seat belt or a boat rope.

The handles of the Spyderco Atlantic Salt are made from highly visible yellow FRN for visibility, and they sport bi-directional texturing for unmatched traction in wet or dry conditions.

This is a great rescue knife, but it could be greater if it comes equipped with a belt cutter and a glass breaker.

Pros

  • Extremely resistant to corrosion
  • Great initial sharpness and edge retention
  • Two-step serrations are great for rescue operations
  • Bi-directional texturing on the handles improve grip performance
  • Ambidextrous thumb hole allows for quick opening

Cons

  • Doesn’t feature a belt cutter
  • Could be more versatile with a glass breaker

Conclusion

From rescue operations to first responders or anyone who benefits from the versatile design and rust resistance, the Spyderco Atlantic Salt Rescue Folding Knife is your go-to model.

Overall Rating – 4.8

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2. Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife — Best Firefighter Knife

Gerber Hinderer Combat Life Saver Knife, Serrated Edge [22-01870]

Crafted by firefighter and knife maker, Rick Hinderer, this edge tool boasts a versatile set of onboard accessories for superior performance.

Specs

  • 5-inch overall length
  • 5-inch blade length
  • 440A blade steel
  • Rugged nylon handle
  • Nine-piece tool kit

Built for firefighters, EMTs, EMS, and other types of rescuers, the blade is crafted from heavy-duty 440A stainless steel that holds an edge pretty well.

The stainless steel blade has a blunt tip that offers safety when using the knife in close proximity as well as providing a medium duty prying tool.

Just below the tip is a two-step serrated edge that offers you a variety of cutting options, including sawing, ripping, and chewing through tough materials.

Another good feature is the nine-piece tool kit, strap cutter, and glass breaker, which can get you into cars and burning buildings for effective rescue operations.

This is certainly a great knife for rescuers, but I am disappointed with the poor quality of the sheath, which tends to unbuckle on its own.

Pros

  • Good edge retention and corrosion resistance
  • Blunt blade tip improves versatility
  • Fully serrated edge is great for cutting tough materials
  • Nine-piece tool kit provides you with all the important accessories
  • Great for breaking glass windows of cars and houses

Cons

  • Sheath is cheaply and/or poorly made
  • Could be better with a partial plain edge

Conclusion

The Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife is highly recommended for firefighters, EMTs, and EMS. It is a great tool for breaking car windows and cutting seat belts.

Overall Rating – 4.4

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3. Swiss Safe 3-In-1 EMT/EMS Tactical Knife — Best First Responder Knife

3-in-1 EMT/EMS Tactical Knife for First Responders with Window Glass Breaker, Seatbelt Cutter and Steel Serrated Blade

The Swiss Safe 3-in-1 EMT/EMS Tactical Knife excels in stability, versatility, and durability. It comes highly recommended for first responders and rescue operations.

Specs

  • 5-inch overall length
  • 5-inch blade length
  • Lightweight aluminum handle
  • Spring-assisted opening
  • Integrated belt cutter and glass breaker

Built for rugged tactical use and rescue applications, the blade measures 3.5 inches and is crafted from premium 0.12-inch thick stainless steel for superior corrosion resistance.

It has a rugged serrated edge with machined canine serrations for maximum ripping and sawing action, and a straight edge for smooth cutting action.

To deploy the blade, first you have to slide the safety lock into the unlock position, and then use one of the ambidextrous thumb studs or the flipper tab to assist with the opening.

I really appreciate the spring assisted opening, considering how quick and efficient it opens the blade, allowing for one-handed deployment.

Another good feature is the liner lock mechanism, which secures the blade into place. To close the blade, you simply slide the safety lock to remove the liner lock out of the way.

What I don’t like; however, is the inconsistent and/or poor quality control from one model to another.

Pros

  • Heavy-duty blade is highly corrosion resistant
  • Rugged serrations are great for sawing and ripping
  • Glass breaker makes it easy to break into a car during an accident
  • Half-inch secondary blade cuts through seatbelts with ease
  • One-handed spring assisted opening for quick deployments

Cons

  • Quality control may be inconsistent from one model to another
  • Some models may come with poor initial sharpness

Conclusion

Designed for the tactically inclined and emergency professionals, the Swiss Safe 3-in-1 EMT/EMS Tactical Knife is the real deal for first responders.

Overall Rating – 4.6

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4. Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS Rescue Knife

Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS 10in High Carbon S.S. Folding Knife with 4.4in Serrated Tanto Blade and Aluminum Handle for Tactical, Survival and EDC

This versatile knife features a heavy-duty black oxide high carbon stainless steel blade with a tactical profile that is eager to take on whatever cutting tasks it is subjected to in an emergency.

Specs

  • 10-inch overall length
  • 4-inch blade length
  • 7Cr17MoV black oxide blade steel
  • Black aluminum handle slabs with Trac-Tec inserts
  • Serrations and blood grooves

The 7Cr17MoV stainless steel was used to create the 4.4-inch partially serrated clip point tanto blade, which is ideal for any tactical, rescue, or emergency situation.

The clip point tanto blade shape offers superior penetration power, while the partially serrated edge chews through tough fibrous materials, such as car seatbelts. The ambidextrous thumb studs dismiss the need for specific right or left-handed blade deployment, making it the most ideal choice for first responders.

Textured and grooved, the coated aluminum handle slabs offer a good grip regardless of the weather conditions.

But the thing is, the tip-up pocket clip position is inherently dangerous because there is a risk of cutting yourself during quick deployments.

Pros

  • Clip point tanto blade will cut through almost anything
  • Rugged serrations chew and saw seatbelts with ease
  • Blade deployment is highly ambidextrous
  • Handle slabs are textured and grooved for strong grip power
  • Built-in strap cutter and glass-breaking tip extend the knife’s capabilities

Cons

  • Tip-up pocket carry may be dangerous during quick deployments
  • Some models may be too stiff to open

Conclusion

A tactical folder that provides an array of cutting surfaces, the Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS is a quality cutting tool for rescues, emergencies, and everyday carry.

Overall Rating – 4.5

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5. StarGear T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Knife

StatGear T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Tool - knife, seatbelt cutter, spring-loaded window punch, light. sheath included

The StarGear T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Knife comes complete with versatile onboard accessories for rescue, firefighters, and first responders.

Specs

  • 5-inch overall length
  • 3-1/4-inch blade length
  • 440C stainless steel blade and seatbelt cutter
  • Emergency LED light
  • Spring-loaded window punch

Crafted to be a versatile tactical tool for rescuers, the StarGear T3 sports a rugged 440C stainless steel blade that is highly corrosion and wear-resistant.

The partially serrated edge is best suited for sawing and chewing through fibrous materials, while the razor-sharp plain edge cuts and slices with ease. I really appreciate the spring-loaded window punch, considering how easy a five-pound pressure push can shatter glass in a moment.

The knife is also fitted with a five lumen LED light, which is great for nighttime rescues because it helps to improve visibility of what you are cutting.

The only significant challenge and probably the major drawback of this knife is the opening and closing of the blades, which may take time to master.

Pros

  • Blade is highly corrosion and wear-resistant
  • Seatbelt cutter rips and cuts tough material with ease
  • Very reliable spring-loaded glass breaker
  • Lumen LED light improves visibility in low light
  • Dual thumb studs are greatly ambidextrous

Cons

  • Opening and closing the blades may be challenging
  • Nylon sheath appears cheaply made

Conclusion

If you like the idea of a spring-loaded glass breaker, heavy-duty seatbelt cutter, and LED light, then the StarGear T3 is the real deal.

Overall Rating – 4.5

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6. Kershaw Funxion 8100 Multifunction Folding Knife

Kershaw Funxion EMT (8100); Multifunction Folding Pocketknife; 3? Partially Serrated Stainless Steel Blade; Features Carabiner Clip, Cord Cutter, Screwdriver Tip, Hex Wrench, Glassbreaker Tip; 4.8 OZ,Black

If you are looking for an edge tool that is designed to provide a unique selection of key functions that will come in handy in an emergency, then look no further than the Kershaw Funxion 8100.

Specs

  • 25-inch overall length
  • 3-inch blade length
  • 8Cr13MoV blade steel
  • SpeedSafe assisted opening
  • Glass-filled nylon handles

The knife sports a precision heat treated 8Cr13MoV steel blade, which is great because it holds an edge pretty well and has exceptional wear resistance.

The SpeedSafe assisted opening is smooth, fast, secure, and ambidextrous; so, all you have to do is apply a little pressure to the thumb stud or flipper tap to deploy the blade.

The glass-filled nylon handle scales are incredibly stiff for a strong, stable, and secure hand grip. They also have iconic texturing for additional traction. I really appreciate the ingenious accessories attached to this knife for added versatility, including a glass breaker, hex wrench, screwdriver tip, cord cutter, and carabiner clip.

But here is the thing, the pocket clip carry is a little bit short and the knife is slightly thicker for comfortable pocket carry.

Pros

  • Great edge retention and wear resistance
  • Smooth, fast, secure, and ambidextrous assisted opening
  • Incredible texturing on the handle for added traction
  • All important accessories for a rescue application are included
  • Excellent choice for cutting fibrous materials

Cons

  • Slightly thicker for comfortable pocket carry
  • Could be easier to carry and deploy with deep pocket clip

Conclusion

The Kershaw Funxion 8100 comes with all the important features an EMT, firefighter, survivalist, or a first responder would want a knife to have.

Overall Rating – 4.6

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Buying Guide: What To Look For When Buying A Rescue Knife

A rescue knife is no ordinary edge tool and there are specific factors you have to take into account, including:

Blade Material

The first and most important consideration is the material of the blade. The material you choose, whether it’s carbon, high carbon stainless steel, or stainless, must have good corrosion and wear resistance.

It should be able to withstand tough conditions. The blade steel should come with reliable initial sharpness and it should be able to hold an edge.

Blade Profile

The best rescue knife must have a tactical blade profile. For starters, it needs to have a serrated edge (full or partial) for chewing through fibrous materials. The tip of the blade must be capable of puncturing, stabbing, or piercing.

Handle Material and Design

The handle material and design will affect how you wheel the knife. So, make sure the handle is made of a premium material that is weather-resistant and is properly textured for a strong hand grip.

A good handle should also have finger grooves for added grip power. You can also consider a model with jimping on the spine that will help you choke the blade for added strength when cutting tough materials.

Opening and Locking Mechanisms

It goes without saying that you need a knife that is extremely easy to deploy. I always prefer a knife with ambidextrous thumb studs and flipper tab with assisted opening.

Manual opening can suffice, but it isn’t usually the best in a rescue situation. The lock mechanism has to be steadfast for strength and added security.

Special Onboard Accessories

A rescue knife won’t be complete without a seatbelt cutter for sawing through seatbelts and tough materials, and a glass breaker for breaking into cars and houses.

Some models do also come with additional accessories, such as a hex wrench, screwdriver tip, and carabiner clip.

Final Thoughts

Our winner for this roundup is the Spyderco Atlantic Salt Rescue Folding Knife, a rugged edge tool that is best suited for rescues and emergencies.

The H-1 blade steel on this knife is highly corrosion-resistant, which means this knife can be used in saltwater environment rescue applications.

The two-step serrations on the blade give you maximum cutting power for sawing, ripping, and chewing through cords, seatbelts, and other tough materials.

It is also one of the easiest and safest knives to deploy with its large and ambidextrous thumbhole design, which allows for quick one-handed deployment.

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