Best Small EDC Knives [2019]: Blades Under 3 Inches

Conrad Novak

Table of Contents

Introduction

In years past, most people purchased one of the many different types of traditional pocket knife patterns to serve as their every-day-carry knife while folding knives served as tools for use in their work. However, while traditional pocket knife patterns are convenient to carry in a trouser pocket, they not very convenient to retrieve, nor are they very convenient to open since they require two hands. In addition, nearly all traditional pocket knife patterns employ a Slip Joint mechanism which holds the blade in the open position but does not lock it there. Consequently, many people these days prefer folding knives over pocket knives because they enable a user to open and close the blade with a single hand and, they lock the blade in the open position. However, not everyone likes to carry a full-sized folding knife and thus, folding knife manufacturers have addressed this issue by producing numerous folding knife designs with extra-short blades but, which still incorporate all of the features of their larger cousins. In this article, we share the most important tips to pick the best small EDC knife for your needs.

At a Glance: Our Choices for The 10 Best Small EDC Knives Under 3 Inches

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

Top Small Pocket Knives Under 3 Inches

Folding Knife Buyer’s Guide

When choosing a small folding knife for every-day-carry, you will inevitably see several different specifications listed that will provide you useful information which, with a little knowledge, will assist you in choosing the right knife from among the many. However, if you are not intimately familiar with the various aspects of knife design, then attempting to decipher the meaning of the specifications listed can be confusing to say the least. However, one of the most important aspects of any knife is the type of steel the blade is made from and thus, this should be your first consideration. Also, another important factor to be considered is the closed length of the knife because, while folding knives with longer handles tend to be more comfortable to hold and use than knives with short handles, they can be cumbersome to carry. In addition, because some jurisdictions restrict the blade length of knives that people are legally allowed to carry, blade length is another factor that you should consider. Last, because the main reason that many users choose to carry a folding knife rather than a traditional pattern pocket knife is the fact that traditional pocket knives require two hands to open the blade or blades and, because traditional pocket knives do not lock the blade in the open position, the type of opening mechanism and locking mechanism a folding knife has is another important factor to be considered. So, below you will find information that explains each of these aspects to help you choose the folding knife design that best suits you.

 

  • Blade steels – Because the blade is the most important part of any knife, the first step to choosing small folding knife is to decide between a stainless steel blade and a high carbon plain tool steel blade because they each have both advantages and disadvantages. For instance, because folding knives are subjected to constant perspiration from their owner’s body when carried in a trouser pocket, stainless steels are a far better choice than high carbon plain tool steels due to their high chromium content which enables them to resist corrosion. But, stainless steels also tend to be more difficult to sharpen than high carbon plain tool steels and thus, some people still prefer non-stainless steel blades even though they are far more prone to corrosion. So, when purchasing a small folding knife, the type of steel the blade is made from is an important factor to consider.

 

  • Rockwell Hardness – While the type of steel a knife blade is made from is certainly an important factor to be considered when choosing a small folding knife, the blade’s Rockwell Hardness is another important factor that should be considered because it will not only determine how easy or difficult the blade is to sharpen, it will also determine how well it will hold an edge. Thus, you should be aware that the Rockwell C scale is commonly used to measure the hardness of blade steels and, the higher the Rockwell Hardness is, the better a blade tends to hold an edge. However, while harder knife blades hold an edge better than softer ones do, they are also more difficult to sharpen. Thus, when choosing a small folding knife, blade steels with a Rockwell Hardness of 55 HRC to 60 HRC are a good choice.

 

  • Closed Length – Another important factor to consider when purchasing a small folding knife is its closed length because, while folding knives with longer handles are both more comfortable to grasp and provide a more secure grip, they can be inconvenient to carry. On the other hand, small folding knives with relatively short handles are often very convenient to carry but, if they are too short, they may not provide a comfortable or secure grip for users with larger hands.

 

  • Blade Length – While some people prefer to carry folding knives with short blades because they are more convenient to carry than folding knives with longer blades, others choose them because some jurisdictions place restrictions on the blade length that people are legally allowed to carry. But, it should also be noted that the length of a knife’s blade affects both the length of the cutting edge and its utility. Therefore, the length of a knife’s blade is another aspect that should be considered when choosing a small folding knife because too short a blade may make the knife unsuitable for your intended purpose while a blade that is too long may violate local ordinances.

 

  • Plain vs. Serrated Cutting Edges – Another aspect that you should consider when purchasing a folding knife is whether the knife that you choose has a blade with a plain or a partially serrated edge because each type has both advantages and disadvantages. For instance, plain edges provide a smooth cut and they are relatively easy to sharpen whereas, partially serrated edges are designed for cutting tough materials such as rope or plastic bands but, they are very difficult to sharpen. Also, they require a round ceramic sharpener of the same diameter as the serrations.

 

  • Manual vs. Assisted Opening Mechanisms – Furthermore, when choosing a small folding knife, you should be aware of the difference between a manual opening mechanism and an assisted opening mechanism. Thus, while a manual opening mechanism requires a person to use either a thumb stud, a thumb hole or, a flipper to manually rotate the blade from the closed position to the open position, an assisted opening mechanism employs a coil spring located under the handle scales to assist the user in opening the blade. Thus, in order open an assisted opening folding knife, the user simply applies pressure to either a thumb stud, a thumb hole, or a flipper to manually open the blade approximately 30 degrees at which point the coil spring takes over and automatically opens the blade the rest of the way. Therefore, while manual opening mechanisms are the most common type featured on folding knives today, assisted opening mechanisms are fast gaining in popularity because they enable the user to open the knife’s blade with a single hand.

 

  • Locking Mechanisms – Last but not least, all folding knives employ some sort of locking mechanism to lock the blade in the open position and, the most common types are the Liner Lock and Back Lock. However, nearly every folding knife manufacturer in the market today seems to have their own proprietary locking mechanism and thus, there are now seemingly as many different types of knife blade locking mechanisms as there are folding knife manufacturers. However, while the mechanical operation of the various types of locking mechanisms varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, the main difference is that while some types of folding knife locking mechanisms such as liner locks and piston locks enable the user to release the blade with a single hand, others such as mid-locks and back locks require two hands to unlock the blade.

The Top Ten EDC Knives with Blades Under 3 Inches

 #1

Benchmade Mini Barrage

1.-benchmade-mini-barrage
Our Rating: (4.7/5)
Steel: CPM-S30V
Blade: 2.91 in
Thickness: 0.10 in
Closed Lenght: 4.0 in
Overall: 6.91 in
Weight: 3.76 oz

Pros:
(+) Super blade steel
(+) Good blade design
(+) One hand opening and closing
Cons:
(-) Excessively expensive

The Benchmade Mini Barrage folding knife was designed by custom knife maker Warren Osborne to be a folding utility knife for every-day-carry. Featuring a closed length of 4 inches with a 2.91 inch blade and a weight of 3.76 ounces, it also features a drop point blade design made from CPM-S30V (which is an American, high carbon, stainless “Super Steel”) with a Rockwell Hardness of 58-60 HRC and a plain edge with a hollow grind and a satin finish. In addition, it features an ergonomic handle design made from G10 and includes Benchmade’s proprietary Axis assisted opening mechanism and a thumb stud combined with their Axis locking mechanism. Last, it includes a reversible, tip-up only, steel pocket clip.

 #2

Kershaw Spoke

2.-kershaw-1313blk-spoke
Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Steel: 4CR14
Blade: 2 in
Thickness: 0.48 in
Handle lenght: 2.8 in
Overall: 4.8 in
Weight: 3.1 oz

Pros:
(+) Plain edge
(+) Hollow grind
(+) Assisted opening mechanism
Cons:
(-) Short handle makes it difficult to grip
(-) Short blade limits utility

The Kershaw Spoke folding knife is a very compact every-day-carry folding knife that features a closed length of 2.8 inches with a 2-inch blade and a weight of 3.1 ounces. In addition, it also features a drop point blade design made from 4Cr14 (which is a Chinese, high carbon, Stainless Steel) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and a plain edge with a hollow grind and black finish. In addition, it also features an ergonomic handle design made from Glass Reinforced Nylon and a flipper combined with Kershaw’s SpeedSafe assisted opening mechanism and a Liner Lock locking mechanism. Plus, it includes a reversible, tip-up only, steel pocket clip.

 #3

Kershaw Shuffle II

3.-kershaw-shuffle-ii
Our Rating: (4.4/5)
Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade: 2.6 in
Thickness: 0.10 in
Closed Lenght: 4.0 in
Overall: 6.6 in
Weight: 3.00 oz

Pros:
(+) Good choice of blade steel
(+) Enables single-handed opening
(+) Enables single-handed closing
Cons:
(-) Tip-down only pocket clip

The Kershaw Shuffle II folding knife is a very compact every-day-carry folding knife that features a closed length of 4 inches with a 2.6-inch blade and a weight of 3 ounces. In addition, it also features a Tanto Point blade design made from 8Cr13MoV (which is a Chinese, high carbon, Stainless Steel) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and a plain edge with a hollow grind and a black, stonewashed, finish. In addition, it also features an ergonomic handle design made from olive-colored Glass Reinforced Nylon and a thumb stud combined with a manual opening mechanism and a Liner Lock locking mechanism. Plus, the back of the handle features both a bottle opener and a screwdriver and, it includes a reversible, tip-down only, steel pocket clip.

 #4

CRKT Squid

4.-crkt-squid
Our Rating: (4.4/5)
Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade: 2.14 in
Thickness: 0.11 in
Handle: 4.49 in
Overall: 6.63 in
Weight: 3.4 oz

Pros:
(+) Stainless blade steel
(+) One hand opening and closing
(+) Handle material is nearly indestructible
Cons:
(-) Super short blade limits utility
(-) Pocket clip limits choice of carry

The Columbia River Knife & Tool Squid folding knife was designed by custom knife maker Lucas Burnley and features a closed length of 4.49 inches with a 2.14-inch blade and has a weight of 3.4 ounces. In addition, it also, it features a drop point blade design made from 8Cr13MoV (which is a Chinese, high carbon, Stainless Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 58-60 HRC combined with a plain edge and a hollow grind with a satin finish. Plus, it also features a thumb stud and manual opening mechanism combined with a Frame Lock locking mechanism and, it includes a very ergonomic handle design made from stainless steel with your choice of a silver or black, stonewashed, finish with a right hand only, tip up only, steel pocket clip.

 #5

CRKT Pilar

5.-crkt-pilar
Our Rating: (4.6/5)
Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade: 2.14 in
Thickness: 0.15 in
Closed Length: 3.53 in
Overall: 5.67 in
Weight: 2.4 oz

Pros:
(+) Stainless steel blade
(+) High Rockwell Hardness
(+) Single hand opening and closing
Cons:
(-) Extra short blade

The Columbia River Knife & Tool Pilar folding knife was designed by custom knife maker Jasper Voxnaes and features a closed length of 3.53 inches with a 2.14-inch blade and has a weight of 2.40 ounces. In addition, it also, it features a sheep’s foot blade design made from 8Cr13MoV (which is a Chinese, high carbon, Stainless Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 58-60 HRC combined with a large finger choil and plain edge with a hollow grind and a satin finish. Plus, it also features a thumb hole and manual opening mechanism combined with a Frame Lock locking mechanism and, it includes a very ergonomic handle design made from stainless steel with bead blasted finish with a right hand only, tip up or, tip down, steel pocket clip.

 #6

Spyderco Ambitious

6.-spyderco-ambitious
Our Rating: (4.9/5)
Steel: CPM S30V
Blade: 2.95 in
Thickness: 0.125 in
Handle: 4.29 in
Overall: 7.24 in
Weight: 3.4 oz

Pros:
(+) Super blade steel
(+) Ergonomic handle design
(+) One hand opening and closing
Cons:
(-) Excessively expensive

The Spyderco Ambitious folding knife features a closed length of 4.29 inches with a 2.95-inch blade and has a weight of 3.4 ounces. In addition, it also, it features a drop point blade design made from CPM S30V (which is an American, high carbon, stainless “Super Steel”) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness combined with a plain edge, a flat grind and, a black, Diamond-Like Carbon finish. Plus, it also features Spyderco’s Trademark Round Hole and manual opening mechanism combined with a Compression Lock locking mechanism and, it includes a very ergonomic, open back, handle design made from G10 with a reversible, tip up or tip down, steel pocket clip.

 #7

Spyderco Para 3

7.-spyderco-para-3
Our Rating: (4.7/5)
Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade: 2.25 in
Thickness: 0.15 in
Closed: 3.59 in
Overall: 5.84 in
Weight: 3.0 oz

Pros:
(+) Stainless blade steel
(+) One hand opening and closing
(+) Open back design
Cons:
(-) Unknown Rockwell Hardness

The Spyderco Para 3 (model C223GBK) folding knife features a closed length of 3.59 inches with a 2.25-inch blade and has a weight of 3 ounces. In addition, it also, it features a drop point blade design made from 8Cr13MoV (which is an Chinese, high carbon, stainless steel) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness combined with a plain edge, a flat grind and, a satin finish. Plus, it also features Spyderco’s Trademark Round Hole and manual opening mechanism combined with a Liner Lock locking mechanism and, it includes a very ergonomic, open back, handle design made from G10 with a reversible, tip up or tip down, steel pocket clip.

 #8

Boker Plus Subcom

8.-boker-subcom-f
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel: AUS-8
Blade: 1.9 in
Thickness: 0.08 in
Handle: 4.5 in
Overall: 6.4 in
Weight: 2.40 oz

Pros:
(+) Stainless steel blade
(+) Zytel handle is very tough
(+) One hand opening and closing
Cons:
(-) Serrated edges are difficult to sharpen

The Boker Plus Subcom folding knife was designed by custom knife maker Chad Los Banos to be a municipal friendly folding knife and it features a closed length of 4.5 inches with a 1.9-inch blade and has a weight of 2.4 ounces. In addition, it also, it features a drop point blade design made from AUS-8 (which is a Japanese, high carbon, stainless steel) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and a hollow grind. In addition, it also is available with your choice of a plain edge with a satin finish or a partially serrated edge with a black finish and it features a handle made from Zytel with a thumb stud and manual opening mechanism combined with a frame Lock locking mechanism and, it includes a reversible, tip up or tip down, steel pocket clip.

 #9

Gerber Ripstop II

9.-gerber-ripstop-ii-knife
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel: 5Cr15MoV
Blade: 3.0 in
Thickness: 0.10 in
Handle: 4.4 in
Overall: 7.40 in
Weight: 3.00 oz

Pros:
(+) Stainless steel blade
(+) Single hand opening and closing
(+) Stainless steel handle is nearly indestructible
Cons:
(-) Serrated edges are difficult to sharpen
(-) Handle design is not very comfortable

The Gerber Ripstop II folding knife features a closed length of 4.4 inches with a 3-inch blade and has a weight of 3 ounces. In addition, it also, it features a drop point blade design made from 5Cr15MoV (which is a Chinese, high carbon, stainless steel) with an unknown Rockwell Hardness combined with a partially serrated edge, a hollow grind and, a satin finish. Plus, it also features a thumb hole combined with a manual opening mechanism and a Frame Lock locking mechanism and, it includes a very ergonomic, skeletonized, handle design made from stainless steel with a right hand only, tip down only, steel pocket clip.

 #10

Opinel No. 6 Carbon

10.-opinel-no.-6
Our Rating: (4.8/5)
Steel: X90
Blade: 2.76 in
Thickness: 0.06 in
Closed: 3.625 in
Overall: 6.385 in
Weight: 1.2 oz

Pros:
(+) Very inexpensive
(+) Ultra lightweight
(+) Good blade design
Cons:
(-) No pocket clip
(-) Plain Tool Steel blade is prone to corrosion
(-) Locking mechanism requires two hands

The Opinel Number 6 Carbon series folding knife features a 2.76-inch blade and weighs a mere 1.2 ounces. In addition, it also, it features a clip point blade design made from X90 high carbon Plain Tool Steel with an unknown Rockwell Hardness and features a plain edge with a flat grind and a satin finish. Plus, it also features an ergonomic handle design made from Beechwood combined with Opinel’s stainless steel Viroblock safety ring locking mechanism.

Final Thoughts

So, when choosing a small folding knife, the first step is to decide whether you prefer a blade made from a high-quality stainless steel or a high carbon plain tool steel. Then, the next step is to decide whether you prefer a blade that holds an edge well but may be somewhat difficult to sharpen or, one that is relatively easy to sharpen but, may not hold an edge as well as one with a harder blade steel. Then, you should choose a knife with a blade length that is appropriate for your intended purpose and which is also legal for carry in your local jurisdiction. In addition, you will also need to decide whether you prefer a blade with a plain cutting edge or a partially serrated cutting edge while being aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Last, you should consider the type of opening and locking mechanism the knife that you choose has since some types can be both opened and closed with a single hand while others require two hands. So, keeping these various aspects of folding knife design in mind will help you greatly when sorting through all of the various designs on the market today while choosing one of the ten knives listed above will save you both time and effort.

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