Best Folding Knives For Self Defense: 10 Great Options to Consider

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Whether you need a knife to survive in the wilderness or protect yourself from the wild animals of civilizations, it is important to find yourself a tool you can rely on blindly. A knife is only as good as it helps you in an emergency. The discreet, smaller blades in our list are some of the best folding knives for self-defense.

Some of the bigger ones are designed to be tough enough to intimidate and scare off the bad guys. It’s a fact. Many psychologists claim that knives make for a greater impact as compared to guns.

Plus, you don’t have to worry about a knife accidentally going off. Keep reading to find which could be the best folding knife for you and which can protect you when you need it the most.

At a Glance: Our Choices for The 10 Best Folding Self Defense Knives

Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each knife.


How to Choose a Good Folding Self Defense Knife

No tactical trainer is going to encourage you to go looking for a fight. But then bad news rarely ever comes knocking. You need to be ready if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation, whether it is in on the trail or in the local supermarket parking lot.

While any knife can be used to effectively scare away an opponent, some knives are specifically designed for this purpose. These are the things you need to consider if you are looking for the best folding knife which lets you protect you and your companions.

Knife Size

Larger knives are not thought to be exactly self-defense friendly since the larger dimensions make them unwieldy. It is a fact -bigger the blade, harder it will be for you to swing it around.

Self-defense blades are generally better when kept on the shorter end of the spectrum. There are also other alternative benefits from picking up a shorter knife.

Smaller blades are generally not lethal which means you are less likely to kill someone. Smaller knives are also easier to carry and conceal. You don’t want to go jogging with your dog in the morning with a bulky butcher knife tied to your band. At the same time, you don’t want to be stuck with a microblade either.

Speed and Ease

You need to find a folding knife that is easy to use and can be out in the open in a jiffy. Self-defense situations don’t really announce their arrival. You need to have the best folding knife for self-defense if you want to stay safe and protected. You need a knife that can be deployed quickly.

Fixed blades are generally best for this purpose since you don’t really have to fumble with opening them. But, these come with their set of drawbacks. It is important that you look for knives that can be deployed easily, like automatic knives or assisted-opening knives.

There are some manual knives that can be opened quickly. You just have to find one of the best folding knives that match your style.

Legal Issues

You need to always take into account local laws when purchasing any self-defense tool. Certain knives, like most automatic knives, are generally illegal. You need to stay within the purview of the law even if you use the knife to protect yourself from danger.


You need great access in addition to a quick opening knife. The best folding knife for self-defense out there is going to be one you can easily store and access. Pocket folding blades are generally the best knives in terms of accessibility.

It is not very difficult to reach into your pocket and grab them. However, there are some folding knives that are too large to fit easily in your pocket. Hence, consider size when you are looking at accessibility.

Top 10 Self-Defense Knives


Benchmade Bedlam – Best in Features

Benchmade - Bedlam 860, Plain Scimitar, Satin Finish

Our Rating: (4.9/5)
Steel Type: 154CM
Blade: 3.95″
Blade thickness: 0.13″
Closed length: 4.76″
Overall: 9.71″
Weight: 7.10 oz.

(+) Ambidextrous grip
(+) Reversible belt clip
(+) Curved and serrated edge on the blade
(-) No assisted opening mechanism
(-) Relatively more expensive

Pocket knives are generally not dual blades. This 4-inch scimitar has a dangerously lethal blade that is half plain and half serrated. The ominous look is one of the reasons why this blade is featured on this list of the best folding knives for self-defense.

Benchmade Bedlam has a blade constructed from 154CM stainless steel, which is an American high-grade alloy. It is designed to be the middle ground between durability, hardness, and corrosion resistance. The best part about this “pocket knife” is its size.

The knife is 9.76inch long when open and folds easily into just 5.76inch. Benchmade Bedlam has a total weight of 7.2oz. It comes with a tactical deep-carry pocket clip. The clip sports a tip-up style carry configuration which allows for easy and quick deployment.

Why Should You Buy It

Good Size – Though the knife is 4 inches, it opens to be 10 inches, which is a bit overkill, but works rather comfortably in an emergency situation. The blade is really easy to deploy and can be opened in a snap. Benchmade Bedlam is a scimitar and does not disappoint where damage is concerned.

Opens Easily – It comes with a manual-opening AXIS style mechanism which may not be really great in self-defense situations, but passes muster. A spring-loaded assist option would be great, but Benchmade overcame that by making the mechanism silky smooth.


Spyderco Matriarch 2 – Best Overall

Spyderco C12SBBK2W Matriarch 2 Folding Knife with Emerson Opener, Black, 3.57-Inch

Our Rating: (4.7/5)
Steel Type: VG-10
Blade: 3.57″
Blade thickness: 0.12″
Closed length: 4.98″
Overall: 8.55″
Weight: 3.50 oz.

(+) Locks solid when open
(+) Multiple blade styles
(+) Designed specifically for heavy work
(-) Large size can feel bulky
(-) Coating chips off easily

There are a lot of great knives from Spyderco. However, the Matriarch line has some of the best folding knives. They have numerous notable advantages over others and are available at half the cost. This is because Matriarch handles are made from reinforced fiberglass.

While the Spyderco Matriarch 1 and 2 are almost the same, Matriarch 2 comes covered in black titanium nitride coating. This helps in making it non-reflective. The overall length is 8.55 inches with a 3.75 inch VG-10 steel blade. The blade comes with a reliable locking mechanism and a series of viable grips.

Spyderco Matriarch 2 has a fully serrated ‘Reverse S Hawkbill’ blade. There are thumbholes in the blade which makes it easy to open and close the knife. The best part is the deep carry pocket clip which makes the knife highly accessible.

Why Should You Buy It

Doubles Up as EDC – Spyderco Matriarch 2 is not only the best folding knife for self-defense, but it also doubles up as an everyday carry knife. The features are more than perfect for the money. There are no other better options on the list when it comes to a knife that serves utilitarian purposes so well.

Opening Mechanism – Another outstanding feature in this knife is the Emerson Wave technology. This causes the blade to deploy automatically when the wave catches on the pocket edge. Spyderco Matriarch 2 could be a really useful knife in an emergency situation where fractions of a second are precious.


Cold Steel Recon 1 – Best in Grip

Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto Plain Edge

Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Steel Type: CPM-S35VN
Blade: 4.00″
Blade thickness: 0.14″
Closed length: 5.375″
Overall: 9.375″
Weight: 5.30 oz.

(+) Heavy-duty
(+) Durable and sharp composite steel blade
(+) Tanto style for tactical use
(-) At 5oz (141.75g), heftier than some may prefer for EDC
(-) Thicker blade is not as agile

The Cold Steel Recon 1 is one of the best folding knives for self-defense in terms of grip. The G-10 handle has heavily checkered scales which almost makes the knife stick to the palm. The blade flicks open nicely by using either of the thumb studs.

Cold Steel Recon 1 features an impressive 4-inch tanto blade. It is made of black Japanese AUS 8A Stainless with Tuff-Ex coating. There is a reversible belt clip on the handle and the blade easily locks into the open position with the lever lock. The knife weighs just 5.2 ounces and comes in multiple options – micro, mini, and XL.

This self-defense tool is a ready-for-anything knife with its sharp blade and impressive quality.

Why Should You Buy It

Tough – The Cold Steel Recon 1 is built of high-quality materials and features a tough and durable blade. The blade is sharp as a scalpel making it an excellent choice for tactical use as well as by civilians for self-protection. Protective locking keeps the knife safe during the toughest use.

Good Grip – The DLC coating on the G10 handle allows for a great grip. It feels comfortable in the hand and features a Tri-Ad lock to keep the fingers safe from harm.


Fox 599 Emerson Wave Karambit – Best in Design

Fox 599 G10 Black Emerson Wave Folding Karambit

Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Steel Type: Bohler N690
Blade: 2.50″
Blade thickness: 0.11″
Closed length: 4.5″
Overall: 7.00″
Weight: 4.20 oz.

(+) Curved sharp blade
(+) Value for money
(+) Firm grip
(-) Liner lock fails with light flailing strikes
(-) Too long

Fox 599 Emerson Wave Karambit is probably the best folding knife from a functional perspective. Karambit was first introduced in the Indonesian archipelago, with some believing the unique design to have originated in the Philippines or Malaysia. In any case, the knife is designed to be a utilitarian folding knife.

Fox 599 Emerson Wave Karambit is thought to be the next generation of folding knives in the United States. It is the best folding knife for self-defense if you want something that is quick to engage and easy to use. It has the Emerson Wave Shaped Opening Feature for quick deployment.

The talon blade length is 2.25 inches and is built of N690 Co Stainless Steel. The knife when closed is 4.75 inches and opens to 7.0 inches. The knife weighs 4.4 oz. and has a thickness of 0.12 inch. The handle in the Fox 599 Emerson Wave Karambit is made from G-10 (composite material).

Why Should You Buy It

Ambidextrous – The knife has an ergonomic handle design that has a perfect reverse grip and fits forward easily. It can be carried easily for both forward and reverse grip deployment. The knife is built for dexterity and allows for a total ambidextrous grip.

Multi-purpose – The Fox 599 Emerson Wave Karambit is really three tools in one. It is one of the best self-defense knives out there while being the tool of choice of martial arts expert. It also serves well as a functional or a utility knife.


Spyderco Yojimbo 2 – Easiest to Carry

Spyderco Yojimbo 2 Folding Knife - Black G-10 Handle with PlainEdge, Hollow Grind, CPM S30V Steel Blade and Compression Lock - C85GP2

Our Rating: (4.7/5)
Steel Type: CPM-S30V
Blade: 3.125″
Blade thickness: 0.16″
Closed length: 4.50″
Overall: 7.50″
Weight: 4.00 oz.

(+) Comfortable grip
(+) Hollow ground blade
(+) Pocket-friendly size
(-) Small blade size
(-) G10 scale rubs for some

Michael Janich, the famous personal defense instructor, designed the Yojimbo 2 specifically for self-defense. This makes it one of the best folding knives for self-defense. It can be used for doing simple tasks like opening envelopes or boxes and for EDC.

The blade is thinner than knives designed for EDC. If you use it for regular purposes, the blade may chip. The knife is sized perfectly making it easy to carry in the pocket. You can use the blade for slashing, stabbing, and cutting.

There is a handy 4 Way Clip for tip-up or tip-down carry. The blade length is 3.125 inches with the collapsed knife measuring 4.5 inches. It is 7.56 inches when fully extended and features an S30V steel blade. The Yojimbo 2 comes with a G10 handle.

The knife also features a functional thumbhole in the blade. This allows for easy opening and closing without using your fingers along the blade edge.

Why Should You Buy It

Designed for Self-defense – The blade is designed to be wider at the bottom and to taper thinly towards the top. The Yojimbo 2 comes at a great price point making it an accessible self-defense tool.

Compression Lock – There is a nice compression lock and liner on this knife. This means that the blade is not going to break off or collapse when you need it the most.



Emerson Knives CQC-7 Tanto – Best in Accessibility

Emerson Knives CQC-7BW BT Tanto Knife w/ Wave (3.3" Black Plain) CQC-7 CQC7

Our Rating: (4.6/5)
Steel Type: 8Cr14MoV
Blade: 3.25″
Blade thickness: 0.11″
Closed length: 4.50″
Overall: 7.75″
Weight: 5.09 oz.

(+) Strong piercing tip
(+) Tactical design
(+) High-quality material
(-) Expensive
(-) Requires practice

Emerson Knives CQC-7BW is one of the most beautiful, high-quality, and, cleverly-designed folding blades on offer. It features a tactical look, black hue, and lightning-fast opening. Emerson knives are known for using high-tier materials.

It employs a high-carbon stainless steel blade that can easily handle a variety of texture hardness. The liner is aerospace-grade titanium which provides tensile strength and an impressive wear-resistance. The handle comes padded with high-pressure fiberglass laminate called G10 composite scales.

Emerson Knives CQC-7BW is an excellent folding knife for self-defense since it weighs only about 4 ounces and features a 3.3-inch blade. The handle is about 4.65 inches when folded and 8 inches when unfolded.

Why Should You Buy It

Straight Ground Edge – The knife has a single-sided blade which leads to a defined tip. The ‘chisel grind’ style is only on one side of the blade with the flipped side left completely flat. This allows for easy sharpening and maintaining of the blade.

Wave Feature – The knife has the famous Emerson Knives Wave feature. You can easily open the knife while drawing it out of your pocket in one quick motion. The technique is fast, safe, and handy when you need your knife the most. However, you need to master the technique since it takes some getting used to.


Cold Steel Black Talon II – Best in Engagement

Cold Steel Black Talon Folder Knife Plain Edge

Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel Type: CTS-XHP
Blade: 4.00″
Blade thickness: 0.13″
Closed length: 5.50″
Overall: 9.50″
Weight: 4.80 oz.

(+) High-quality semi-stainless steel blade
(+) hawk-bill point
(+) Ambidextrous pocket clip
(-) Closes too quickly
(-) Difficult to sharpen

The Cold Steel Black Talon II has everything that a complete “combat folder” needs. It has a solid lock and a large-enough edge to protect one in the most urgent situations. It has a thick spine and a reinforced tip. The blade on the Black Talon uses the “Reverse S” design.

This is one of the best folding knives for people not cut out or trained in knife fighting. Cold Steel Black Talon II allows for cutting, slashing and ripping or whatever it takes to make an escape.

Talon II also performs well in utility tasks. It has deep serrations that can easily cut through zip ties, cardboard, and metal fasteners, like paper clips.

Cold Steel Black Talon II weighs 4.8 oz. and has a long 4-inch hawkbill blade. Cold Steel is one of the better-known manufacturers of self-defense knives. The Black Talon II is ferocious with a Tri-Ad lock and opening disk. It has an opening disk that allows for deployment in one swift motion.

Why Should You Buy It

The Pocket Chainsaw – Cold Steel Black Talon II is dubbed the pocket chainsaw since the 4-inch blade is perfect for regular daily cutting and sawing tasks. It can shred almost any material painlessly.

Ideal for Large Hands – The Black Talon has a generous 5.5 inch G10 handle. It is made for people with large hands to allow for a more than sure grip. The textured G10 is perfectly contoured with nice apportioned finger choils. It allows for improved safety and control.


Kershaw Brawler – Best Value for Money

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

Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel Type: 8Cr13MoV
Blade: 3.25″
Blade thickness: 0.12″
Closed length: 4.125″
Overall: 7.125″
Weight: 3.80 oz.

(+) Best features for price point
(+) Sharp tanto blade
(+) Lightweight
(-) Cheap plastic used in the handle
(-) Soft steel

The Kershaw Brawler is inexpensive, small, and extremely mighty. It is exactly what you would expect from a knife named brawler. It has a 3 inch tanto blade made from 8Cr13MoV steel. The knife is purpose-built for close contact encounters.

The knife has little utility or functional value. However, it still sports an EDC self-defense package and comes at a ridiculously low price tag. The Kershaw Brawler has excellent craftsmanship and is built of high-quality material.

Kershaw Brawler has a spring-loaded SpeedSafe assisted opening feature that utilizes a thumb peg to open lightning fast. There is also an in-line locking mechanism and a multi-positional pocket clip. This makes it comfortable to deploy the knife using just one hand.

Why Should You Buy It?

Durable – The blade on Kershaw Brawler is covered in oxide corrosion-resistant material. This makes it extremely durable with great edge retention.

Tanto Blade – Kershaw Brawler sports a tanto blade which is made for one thing only – to cause maximum damage. The knife is designed specifically to get you out of unpleasant situations quickly. The handle is made from glass-filled ballistic nylon polymer which allows for frame rigidity and a very strong grip.


SOG Flash II – Best EDC Features

SOG Tanto EDC Knife - Flash II Tanto Folding Knife, Pocket Knife, Straight Edge Knife w/ Black TiNi Blade and Assisted Opening Tech

Our Rating: (4.4/5)
Steel Type: AUS-8
Blade: 3.50″
Blade thickness: 0.13″
Closed length: 4.50″
Overall: 8.00″
Weight: 3.10 oz.

(+) Assisted opening
(+) Reversible design
(+) Low-hanging pocket clip
(-) Not ambidextrous
(-) Handle sits low

SOG Flash II comes with a full-size handle and blade that opens with assisted opening technology. It is one of the best and stoutest everyday knives out there. AUS-8 steel is used in this pocket knife, which is a really good quality steel. It is durable, sharp, and sturdy.

The knife is 4.5 inches closed with an overall length of 8 inches. The blade is 3.5 inches and runs straight. SOG Flash II weighs 3.1 ounces which makes it perfect for easy carry.

The knife sports a fantastic drop point blade shape. It is uncomplicated and easy to use. The edge slopes slightly downwards towards the tip which opens up the knife’s applications for other tasks. For instance, it can be used for everyday tasks like slicing meat at home or opening packages.

Why Should You Buy It

Blade Integrity – SOG is known for making some of the best blades. Each blade is tailor-made to perfect its function, target market, and price point. SOG Flash II features AUS 8 steel that strikes up a great balance between value and function. It holds its edge far better than other knives in the price range.

Control – The SOG Flash II has a great grip. This allows for better control and function. You can swipe this knife easily without being afraid to hurt yourself. The design ensures that the knife doesn’t accidentally slip out of your hand.


Gerber 06 FAST Knife – Best Budget Buy

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

Our Rating: (4.4/5)
Steel Type: 7Cr17MoV
Blade: 3.80″
Blade thickness: N/A
Closed length: 4.80″
Overall: 8.60″
Weight: 5.70 oz.

(+) Firm grip
(+) Strong and durable
(+) Versatile and practical use
(-) Low-quality manufacture
(-) Stiff lock mechanism

Gerber 06 is a large tactical folder featuring the F.A.S.T. assisted opening technology. F.A.S.T. stands for forward action spring technology. The knife has a tanto blade built for easy thrusting. The handle is G-10 which allows for superior handling and grip. There is also a pocket clip to make carrying really easy.

The 3-inch blade is made with 7Cr17MoV steel and has ambidextrous dual thumb studs. There are textured scales on the nylon handle to ensure a firm grip always. The overall length of the knife is 8.6 inch which measures 4.8 when closed. It weighs 5.7 ounces and has black oxide on the blade finish.

Why Should You Buy It

Great Blade – The tanto tip makes penetrating things virtually effortless. It can also get aggressive cutting jobs taken care of easily. The blade has a serrated section which is really handy. This black non-glare, stainless steel blade has a Titanium oxide coating to provide added protection.

Easy Opening – The thumb stud on the Gerber 06 makes for quick one-handed opening. The stud can be used easily from any hand. Its Assisted Opening 2.0 Mechanism ensures smooth and fast engagement so that you are never stuck when you need your knife the most.

See also: Best Slingshots for Survival: 10 Amazing Options for Your Bug-Out Bag

Our Favorite

In our evaluation, the best folding knife for self-defense is Spyderco Matriarch 2. It offers numerous features for the price point with a superlative 3.75-inch VG-10 steel blade. The knife can be easily opened with ambidextrous thumbholes. Spyderco Matriarch also ranks high as an EDC knife with multipurpose capabilities.

Emerson Knives CQC-7 Tanto is a close runner up at number two among the best folding knives for self-defense. It features a high-carbon stainless steel blade set in a clever design. You will never have to worry about a blade getting stuck or the knife taking too long to engage with the advanced Emerson Knives Wave technology.

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