Best Rescue Knife for 2020: Top Picks for First Responders

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Introduction

One of the most important pieces of gear in any prepper’s survival kit is a quality pocket knife. With the right knife, you get a lot of life saving capabilities in a compact package. It’s the one tool you can’t afford to leave behind.

A rescue knife such as the Kershaw Funxion EMT takes the basic pocket knife design and packs in even more functionality by adding a glass breaker and a seat belt cutter. These additional features can be used by first responders to free someone from a vehicle during an emergency.

Choosing the best rescue knife for your duty carry or civilian everyday carry could mean the difference between life or death.

At a Glance: Our Choices for The 10 Best Rescue Knives

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

AHow to Choose an Excellent Rescue Knife

There are plenty of excellent rescue knives on the market from all the major manufacturers. Ranging from high end down to low budget options. It can be difficult to choose.

The following criteria should help you narrow down your choice. Then we’ll go over ten of the top-rated rescue knives on the market.

Blade Steel

Generally speaking, the higher quality the blade steel, the higher the knife’s price tag. However, you usually get what you pay for. Certain higher end blade steels offer better corrosion resistance and also keep an edge longer during heavy use.

Functionality

A rescue knife usually consists of the blade, handle, locking mechanism, glass breaker and seatbelt cutter. Some of the models on our list feature a lanyard clip, which is a nice touch.

While all the knives on our list come with these features, the layouts will be slightly different. What works best for you will be based on personal preference. I’ll share some of mine here.

Blade Style

Knife blades come in various blade shapes and styles. You can choose between a plain edge or a serrated edge. Many on our list offer a combination edge, meaning the knife has both plain and serrated edges on the same blade.

A plain edge blade is superior for slicing and they’re also easier to sharpen. Serrated edges are used for sawing, rather than slicing. Serrated edges are harder to sharpen, but they stay sharper longer.

It’s been my experience that anything a serrated knife can do, a plain edge knife can do just as well. Plus they slice cleaner and can be sharpened in minutes. A combination blade is a good option for those who want the best of both worlds.

Price

How much are you willing to spend on your rescue knife? Prices range from low budget options to premium knives that cost hundreds of dollars. The higher end models offer more premium blade steel as well as a better fit and finish. Certain brands are synonymous with top quality cutlery while others are simply “good enough.” A knife is such a valuable tool that I would choose the best one available that I could afford.

Locking Mechanism

This is often overlooked by knife buyers but it’s extremely important! Folding knives are great for their compact design and portability, but the weak point is always the lock.

It would be great if we could all carry fixed blade knives but for some people it’s impractical or even illegal. So we must make do with a folding knife that has the strongest locking mechanism available.

My favorite lock style is the lockback knife. This means the lock is built into the spine of the handle. It’s a rugged design and the lock is totally out of the way during use. Usually under your palm and unable to be pressed.

My least favorite is the liner lock, which is located inside the liner of the knife where the blade folds into the handle. I’ve had cheap liner lock knives fail on me before. Having a knife fold closed on you during use can be a scary event.

The good news is, liner locks have improved a lot over the years and current models from reputable manufacturers should be ok. Still, I choose to steer clear of them for heavy duty use.

10 Best Rescue Knives

 #1

Spyderco Assist

Spyderco Assist Salt Lightweight Folding Knife - Yellow FRN Handle with CombinationEdge, Hollow Grind, H-1 Steel Blade and Back Lock - C79PSYL

Our Rating: (5.0/5)
Steel: H1
Blade Lenght: 3.69″
Overall Lenght: 8.38″
Weight: 4.00 Oz.

Pros:
(+) Rust resistant
(+) Lightweight
(+) Quality steel
Cons:
(-) No point on the blade
(-) Lacking a glass breaker and seatbelt slicer

Spyderco knives are known for their unique designs which offer the perfect combination of value and functionality. I’ll be the first to admit they aren’t the prettiest looking knives. However, holding one in my hand for the first time made me a believer.

The Spyderco Assist has no thumb stud to open the knife. Instead, Spyderco uses a thumb hole which is cut into the blade. This design is excellent for all hand sizes and all-weather conditions.

Wearing gloves during a snowstorm? Hands wet and dirty while fishing? No problem. You’ll find the huge thumb hole in the blade easy to find and actuate with just one hand.

This particular variant of the Spyderco Assist is called the “Salt” model due to the H-1 steel used in the blade. H-1 is created in a process using nitrogen rather than carbon, making this steel completely corrosion resistant. If you spend a lot of time around water, or you live near the ocean, then H-1 steel would be a great choice for you.

The Spyderco Assist features a fiberglass reinforced nylon handle which is lightweight and durable. The multidirectional texturing allows for a secure grip with wet hands while still being smooth enough to clip into your pocket without tearing up your pants. The high visibility yellow is the ideal color for a rescue knife, making it easier to find if dropped in the field.

The Spyderco Assist wins for best corrosion resistance.

 #2

Buck CSAR-T

Buck Knives 0091BKSTP1Buck CSAR-T Responder Tactical Folding Knife with M.O.L.L.E. Compatible Sheath

Our Rating: (4.9/5)
Steel: 420
Blade Lenght: 3.50″
Overall Lenght: 8.25″
Weight: 7.00 Oz

Pros:
(+) Versatile design
(+) Sturdy build
(+) No slip, G-10 handle
Cons:
(-) Heavy weight
(-) Liner lock

If you prefer a more traditional knife design, then you might like the Buck CSAR-T. Made in the USA, this Buck knife is sturdy, reliable and packed with great features. Tough enough for duty use, while still being small enough for everyday carry.

The 3.5-inch blade is a plain edge, modified tanto made out of 154cm steel. This steel is a rugged, mid-range steel that’s able to hold a decent edge while being put through hard use. The zirblast finish not only looks good, it also assists in corrosion resistance.

Additional features on this knife include a seatbelt cutter and a glass breaker built into the base of the handle. These items are out of the way, but there when you need them. Just how it should be. The handle also has a hex tool incorporated into it for added versatility.

The G-10 inlays on the handle are both functional and good looking. Better looking than the fiberglass handles used on the Spyderco, in my opinion.

There’s always a compromise and in this case it’s the weight. Weighing in at 9.3 ounces, the Buck CSAR-T is more than twice the weight of the Spyderco Assist. Not a big deal if it’s staying in your bag, but if it’s riding in your pocket all day those ounces add up.

The Buck CSAR-T wins for the most rugged design.

 #3

Gerber Hinderer

gerber-hinder-rescue-knife

Our Rating: (4.9/5)
Steel: 440A
Blade Lenght: 3.50″
Overall Lenght: 8.50″
Weight: 5.60 Oz

Pros:
(+) Packed with features
(+) Well thought out design
(+) Easy to operate one handed
Cons:
(-) Heavy weight compared to other competitors
(-) Dull tipped blade limits versatility

Gerber teamed up with firefighter Rick Hinderer to develop the best possible rescue knife. He designed a model using his personal experience working in emergency situations and the Hinderer Rescue Knife was born.

Specifically designed for emergency first responders, the Gerber Hinderer is packed with helpful features. Housed in the handle of the knife is a fold out safety hook for cutting seat belts and clothing. On the base of the handle there’s a window punch and a tool to open oxygen tank valves.

The blade is 3.5 inches long with a serrated edge. Ideal for sawing through seatbelts or whatever else you encounter in the field. An oversized thumb stud makes one handed opening a breeze, even with gloves on. The tip is purposely blunted. This is a safety feature to minimize the risk of poking yourself and others while using the knife to help free someone from a vehicle.

The handle has heavy checkering to aid in grip. There’s a sturdy locking mechanism located in the top of the handle which allows for one handed operation of the knife. This knife ships with a nylon sheath and a nine-piece tool kit for added versatility.

The Gerber Hinderer is best for storing in your bag or vehicle for emergency use. The heavy weight and blunt serrated blade are not well suited for an everyday carry knife.

 #4

Benchmade – Tactical Triage 917

Tactical Triage 917 Manual Open Folding Knife with Glass Breaker and Rescue Hook Made in USA, Drop-Point Blade, Serrated Edge, Coated Finish, Black Handle

Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Steel: CPM-S30V
Blade Lenght: 3.48″
Overall Lenght: 8.33″
Weight: 5.58 Oz

Pros:
(+) High end blade steel
(+) Benchmade’s excellent axis lock
(+) Durable G-10 handle
Cons:
(-) Expensive
(-) Small thumb stud makes it difficult to use with gloves on

The Benchmade Tactical Triage 917 is one of the best rescue knives money can buy. The blade is constructed from high quality CPM-S30V stainless steel which offers excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance.

The handle features a resin-soaked fiberglass body that is impervious to moisture. Black G-10 grips on the handle adds to the overall durability and provides a secure grip in all conditions.

Benchmade’s patented axis lock gives the knife a smooth opening and the blade locks up tight. This brilliant design is one you can trust during heavy use.

The Benchmade Tactical Triage 917 is rescue ready, with a seatbelt cutter that neatly folds away into the handle and a glass breaker at the end of the grip. All these great features and Benchmade still manages to keep the knife’s weight down to just 5.28 ounces.

This is the ideal rescue knife that also has everyday carry capabilities. Buyers have options of plain edge or a combination blade with a partly serrated edge. You can also choose between a black coated blade or the traditional stainless-steel finish.

Another benefit to buying a Benchmade is the “Life Sharp Warranty.” Benchmade will inspect, repair, lubricate, and sharpen your knife to a factory sharp edge, all at no cost to you, for the life of your knife.

The Benchmade wins for the best premium option.

 #5

CRKT M16-14ZER

CRKT M16-14ZER Folding Pocket Knife: Emergency Rescue, Serrated Edge Blade, Tanto, Seatbelt Cutter Automated Liner Safety, Orange Nylon Handle with Window Breaker, 4-Position Pocket Clip

Our Rating: (4.7/5)
Steel: AUS-8
Blade Lenght: 3.875″
Overall Lenght: 9.25″
Weight: 6.40 Oz

Pros:
(+) Four position pocket clip adds versatility
(+) Solid lock
(+) Affordable price
Cons:
(-) Could snag on your pocket during deployment
(-) Closing the knife one handed is somewhat difficult

The CRKT M16 has been around for a long time and comes in a wide variety of sizes and blade styles. To create the 14ZER rescue knife, CRKT took their classic M16 model and incorporated some new features for emergency first responders.

The “Carson flipper” is a genius design which allows for quick, one handed deployment of the blade. Once the knife is open, the “flipper” doubles as a finger guard to help keep your fingers away from the blade during use. On the 14ZER version of the M16, the flipper doubles as a seatbelt cutter when the knife is closed.

All M16 knives feature open chambers drilled into the handle to reduce weight and allow easier access for cleaning. For the 14ZER, they took the classic design of the M16 handle and used a rugged glass filled nylon in high visibility orange. Then they added a tungsten carbide window breaker to the end of the handle.

The pocket clip is adjustable in four different positions, giving you the option to carry this knife tip up or tip down, in your left or right-side pockets, or just remove it completely.

CRKT uses a unique liner safety that automatically sets a pin between the liner and the frame to help keep it secure during use. This is a lock I trust, but it’s not the easiest to manipulate one handed.

If you want the classic design of the CRKT M16 series, but with the addition of some new rescue features, this knife is for you.

 #6

SOG Escape

SOG Tactical Folding Knife - Escape Pocket Knife, Emergency Knife and Survival Knife w/ 3.4 Inch Serrated Edge Knife Blade and Glass Breaker (FF25-CP)

Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel: 9Cr18MoV
Blade Lenght: 3.40″
Overall Lenght: 8.20″
Weight: 4.80 Oz

Pros:
(+) Good features at this price point
(+) The low weight is good for daily pocket carry
(+) Secure lockback design
Cons:
(-) Lack of grip texturing
(-) One position pocket clip

The SOG Escape is a high-quality rescue knife that has everything an emergency first responder could ask for.

Perfect for law enforcement officers, emergency paramedics and firefighters. It’s also an excellent choice for an everyday carry knife for civilians who want to be prepared for any disaster.

The blade of the SOG Escape has a combination edge that’s constructed from hard cased black coated 9Cr18MoV stainless steel.

At 3.4 inches in length with a nice pointed tip, this model is versatile enough to use as a duty knife and also work well in a variety of everyday carry tasks. Weighing in at just 4.8 ounces, you’ll hardly notice this knife riding in your pocket all day.

The handle of the SOG Escape is made of hard-anodized 6061-T6 aluminum which gives this budget knife a more premium feel. The downside is the lack of grip texturing. Using this knife with wet hands could be problematic.

The handle of Escape has a slot cut into it which houses the seatbelt cutter. It’s a good design. The cutter is always there if you need it and it never has to be deployed from the handle. It’s exposed, while still being out of the way so it won’t unintentionally cut anything. You also have a glass breaker incorporated into the base of the handle.

The SOG is a good option for people who want a quality knife at an affordable price.

 #7

Kershaw Barricade

Kershaw Barricade (8650) Multifunction Rescue Pocket Knife with 3.5 Inch Stainless Steel Blade; Features SpeedSafe Assisted Opening with Flipper, Glass Breaker Tip, Belt Cutter, and Pocketclip; 4.5 oz

Our Rating: (4.4/5)
Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade Lenght: 3.50″
Overall Lenght: 8.50″
Weight: 4.50 Oz

Pros:
(+) Good value
(+) Light weight
(+) Ergonomic handle
Cons:
(-) One position pocket clip
(-) Due to the design, the blade could get deployed when drawing the knife from a pocket, depending on how you carry it

Another excellent rescue knife for the first responder on a budget is the Kershaw Barricade. At this price point you’re getting a tremendous value.

The Barricade features Kershaw’s legendary speedsafe assisted opening which allows for a fast and easy deployment of the blade. The liner lock is sturdy and easy to actuate so you’re able to open and close the knife with one hand. Perfect for those emergency situations where every second counts.

This knife has a plain edge, 3.5-inch blade with a nice pointed tip. A lot of rescue knives purposely dull their blade tips to increase the durability. A dull tip may reduce the risk of damaging the blade, but it also reduces the functionality. A pointed tip is much more useful for everyday knife tasks and a good quality steel should withstand normal knife uses just fine.

Remember, a knife blade not a pry bar. Use the right tool for the right job and you will greatly increase the lifespan of your knife. The Barricade knife blade is made out of 8Cr13MoV stainless steel, which is a solid mid-range steel that offers decent edge retention and resistance to corrosion. At this price I think it’s a great buy.

The Kershaw Barricade wins for the most ergonomic rescue knife.

 #8

Smith & Wesson SWFRS

SMITH & WESSON SWFRS 8in High Carbon S.S. Folding Knife with 3.3in Drop Point Serrated Blade and S.S. with G-10 Inlay Handle for Outdoor, Tactical, Survival and EDC

Our Rating: (4.3/5)
Steel: 7Cr17MoV
Blade Lenght: 3.3″
Overall Lenght: 8″
Weight: 5.8 Oz

Pros:
(+) Affordable price
(+) Packed with features
(+) Small enough for everyday carry
Cons:
(-) One position pocket clip
(-) Fit and finish is worse than competitors

Smith & Wesson is a company most famous for their firearms. Say that name anywhere in the world and most people will recognize the brand. Over the years, their line of pocket knives have been growing in popularity as well. Especially amongst knife buyers seeking a bargain.

The SWFRS rescue knife is one of the most affordable options on our list. If you’re looking for a rescue knife that has all the features of the premium models at a fraction of the price, this is your winner.

The knife is 5.8 ounces. Not the lightest option on our list, but still easy enough to everyday carry in civilian clothing. The oversized thumb stud makes one handed deployment easy, even when wearing gloves. The 7Cr17MoV high carbon stainless steel used for the blade is a lower range steel, but at this price point I’m not complaining.

The seatbelt cutter is nested into the handle of the knife so it’s always ready when you need it. No deployment necessary. The handle has a glass breaker bolted onto the end and G-10 inlays to add some grip texture.

The G-10 grips do help, but I’d like to see a bit more grip texturing on a rescue knife. Also, the pocket clip is one position only. So you either have to accept it or remove it completely.

Despite these few shortcomings, the Smith & Wesson SWFRS is the best low budget rescue knife.

 #9

Buck Redpoint Rescue

Buck Knives BU753YWX-BRK Redpoint Rescue Tactical Folding Knife Strap Cutter Glass Breaker, Yellow

Our Rating: (4.3/5)
Steel: 420
Blade Lenght: 2.75″
Overall Lenght: 7.125″
Weight: 2.90 Oz

Pros:
(+) Affordable price
(+) Lightweight
(+) Lifetime warranty
Cons:
(-) One position pocket clip
(-) No plain edge option

Buck makes our list for a second time with the Redpoint Rescue Knife. Specifically designed for first responders, the Redpoint has all the great features you would want in a rescue knife while still keeping the price affordable.

The blade is 2.75 inches long, making this the smallest on the list. It’s also the lightest, weighing in at just 2.9 ounces. This is a knife that can ride in your uniform or civilian pants pockets and you’ll forget it’s even there.

The blade is titanium coated 420 HC stainless steel with a non-reflective coating. This is a budget steel well known for its durability and corrosion resistance. The handle of the Buck Redpoint Rescue utilizes safe spin technology which assists in easy one-handed deployment. The blade can be locked in the open or closed position for added peace of mind when in use or while pocket carrying.

The Buck Redpoint knife has a contoured, all weather handle with rubber overmold for a comfortable, secure grip in any weather condition. Incorporated into the grip is a glass breaker and a seatbelt cutter which is essential for all first responders.

Another great feature of this knife is Buck’s lifetime warranty. Since 1902, they’ve been offering customers a “Forever Warranty.” It’s good to see a company that stands behind their products.

If you’re looking for a compact, lightweight rescue knife with a solid lockup, the Buck Redpoint Rescue is your winner.

 #10

Kershaw Funxion EMT

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

Our Rating: (4.3/5)
Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade Lenght: 3.00″
Overall Lenght: 7.25″
Weight: 5.80 Oz

Pros:
(+) Fast deployment
(+) Affordable price
(+) Packed with features
Cons:
(-) Lack of grip texture
(-) No other blade options available

Here’s another fantastic budget option from Kershaw. If you’re looking for a good knife that won’t break the bank, then Kershaw is one of the best companies to consider.

This little rescue knife is built like a tank. Emergency ready, with a glass breaker built into the top end of the handle and a fold out seat belt cutter built into the liner. The seat belt cutter also has a screwdriver tip and a hex head tool built into it.

Another great feature is the carabiner clip that is integrated into the handle. It can be folded out to be used and folded away again when you don’t need it. Excellent versatility. Law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical technicians have the option to clip the knife onto their gear or uniform for safe keeping.

The blade is constructed of 8Cr13MoV stainless steel which offers good durability and edge retention. The only blade option on this model is the combination edge which is partially serrated. While I’d like to see a plain edge option, the good blade shape and pointed tip makes up for this shortcoming.

Like most Kershaw knives, the Funxion EMT uses the speedsafe assisted opening mechanism which deploys the blade quickly with just the push of the flipper. Combined with the liner lock, this knife can easily be opened, used, then closed again with just one hand. A must have feature for any rescue knife.

Final Thoughts

We covered some of the best rescue knife options here and I hope you were able to narrow it down to one choice. If I had to choose one, I would go with the Benchmade Tactical Triage 917. The knife is priced a bit higher than its competitors, but I believe it’s worth it.

You’re getting a high end blade steel, a solid locking mechanism, your choice of blade style, G-10 grips and a sturdy pocket clip. It’s small enough for everyday civilian carry and it’s tough enough to be used in the field as a first responder. That said, I think the SOG Escape could do the same job for a fraction of the price. It’s nice to have options. Good luck with your decision.

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