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It is just a fact of life: The more moving parts a thing has … well, the more chance that something can go wrong. This simple truth really gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to folding knives. Folders can be compact, safe, and convenient, but there can also be a price to pay if they fail at a critical time. What if your lockup gives out in the middle of a tough cutting job? Or you are unable to deploy the blade in an emergency?
With that in mind, when it comes to adding a folder to your survival gear, you might want to think carefully about what you get for your investment. Quality materials and well-executed designs like those featured in Spyderco knives can pay huge dividends, even if they do come at a bit of a premium. In this article, we take a look at what we believe are the best Spyderco knives available in the market so you choose the right one for your EDC needs.
At a Glance: Our Choices for The 10 Best Spyderco Knives
Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each knife.
About Spyderco Knives
Spyderco officially began operations in 1976, when husband and wife team Sal and Gail Glesser began making a product called the Portable Hand, which was designed to aid jewelers and other craftspeople who work with small parts. Eventually, Spyderco began branching out into items related to cutlery—knife sharpeners in particular. In 1978, the company produced its first actual knife, a folder known as the C01 Worker. Even at that early stage, the C01 featured Spyderco’s signature round hole opening mechanism.
In 1981, the Glessers settled in Golden Colorado. They established a base of operations for Spyderco there, and the company remains in Golden to this day.
Spyderco quickly began branching out into more folding knife models. The company continually explored both new design elements and options for materials. As their reputation for quality grew, so did the company itself. Today, Spyderco has manufacturing facilities in locations as far-flung as Japan, China, Taiwan, and Italy—along with the U.S. operations it maintains.
Like many smaller or more specialized knife producers, Spyderco has remained focused on maintaining strong connections within the community of knife collectors and enthusiasts. Their website provides a number of platforms for visitors to become educated about knives and knife buying. And for greater interaction, there is a fairly lively and informative knife forum on the site. Also, Spyderco’s Mule Team Project allows novice knifemakers or those who would like to customize their own knife with a Spyderco blade, to buy fixed blade “blanks” of Spyderco designs.
In terms of warranty, Spyderco offers what could be considered the standard deal from most reputable manufacturers. The products are protected against defects in materials or craftsmanship. If the company determines that you have abused or misused their knife, then they consider the warranty to be void. The company also provides complimentary knife sharpening on plain edges, although they do ask that you chip in $5 for the return shipping.
Currently, Spyderco’s product offering covers a broad range of knives, tools, and accessories. In addition to their folders, they have also delved into the world of fixed blade knives. These run the gamut from tactical, to utility, to chef’s knives and bread slicers. They also produce an array of accessories such as sharpeners, lanyards, sheath mounts, etc.
Spyderco’s mainstays, however, are the folding knives like the one’s we will be looking at in this review. These tend toward the tactical/EDC side of things, and for the most part feature extremely high-quality materials. The designs are both clever and functional and generally employ well-executed mechanisms for lock-up and deployment. Additionally, Spyderco has built a solid reputation for ergonomic handles, and this is well represented by the selections below.
One final note, we will also be taking a look at one of Spyderco’s Byrd folders. This is an economy lineup and sort of little brother brand for Spyderco. The Byrd knives are Chinese produced, and come in moderately priced, yet manage to carry over many of the design features, and even some of the high-grade materials, that Spyderco knives are known for.
The Top 10 Spyderco Knives
Spyderco Endura 4
(+) Great lightweight tactical and EDC folder
(+) Very easy cutting knife
(+) Quick deployment
(-) You might experience some wiggle in the lockup mechanism
(-) Improved jimping could make the handle better
The Endura 4 is a lightweight, plain edge folder made in Japan. For overall dimensions, it has a length of 8.75” (22.2cm) and weighs in at 3.4oz (96g). Like several of the knives reviewed here, the Endura has a 4-way clip that allows for tip-up or tip-down carry, as well as right or left-hand carry.
The handle on this knife is made of fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) that is designed with Spyderco’s own Bi-Directional Texturing for improved grip. The steel liners are skeletonized and feature low friction phosphor bronze washers. The handle has jimping along its spine. Closed length on the Endura 4 is 5” (12.7cm).
The Endura’s blade has a full flat grind and a distal taper meant to reduce friction and improve cutting performance. It features a large opening hole at the base for one-hand opening and a back lock mechanism with an ambidextrous release. The blade thickness is .125” (3mm) and the blade length is 3.75” (9.6cm). It is constructed from a Japanese stainless known as VG-10.
The Endura 4 makes for a great, lightweight tactical folder and EDC. These knives tend to come out of the box with edges that are extremely sharp. In addition, you will likely find that VG-10 makes re-sharpening the blade no problem at all. The FRN handle is durable enough and well designed from the standpoint of both grip and ergonomics. One of the only real drawbacks is that the jimping along the spine of the handle is a little bit so-so as far as functionality goes.
(+) Great blade shape for most cutting tasks
(+) Versatile knife for EDC use
(+) Fast deployment
(-) Not a high grade of steel
(-) Watch out changing the clip position, as the bolts tend to strip easily
The Tenacious is one of Spyderco’s Chinese-made folders. It is a medium-sized knife with an overall length of 7.76” (19.7cm) and weighing 4.1oz (117g).
The handle on the Tenacious is G-10. It too has skeletonized steel liners and a 4-way pocket clip. It also features a jimped Walker linerlock, and a good size lanyard hole at the base. The closed length is 4.45” (11.3cm).
The blade on this knife is made of the Chinese-produced 8Cr13MoV stainless steel, and it features a full flat grind. This blade, once again, comes Spyderco’s trademark oversized round hole for easy, ambidextrous opening. The blade thickness is .118” (3mm) and the blade length is 3.39” (86mm). It is available with either a plain edge or with serrations.
The Tenacious is a solid folder that is going to handle your light-to-medium duty EDC tasks with no problem. The 8Cr13MoV steel, however, is a little bit softer and more corrosion prone than some of the higher grades of steel that Spyderco uses.
On the positive side, like the Endura 4 above, it does use phosphor bronze washers in the pivot, which make for a very easy and rapid deployment. The knife also has a nice lockup mechanism with no play in the blade once it is open.
As the name implies, the Military is a folder with a tactical emphasis in mind. It is a tank of a knife not only in terms of length and weight, but also blade thickness. It is 9.5” (24.1cm) long and weighs in at 4.5oz (128g).
The handle is G-10. It is contoured with a finger groove and flares at the butt end. It also features a partial spacer located about midway to give its long handle some reinforcement. The Military does not, however, have a 4-way pocket clip. Instead, it is right-hand, tip down carry. The closed length is 5.5” (14cm).
The Military’s blade is CPM S30V for excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance. It has a length of 4” (10.2cm) and a thickness of .145” (3.7mm). The blade features a full flat grind and an oversized blade hole for one-handed deployment. It is also available in a black finish for additional stealth.
The digital camouflage design on the Military’s handle goes beyond just an aesthetic quality. There is, in fact, some genuine science informing up this particular patterning. It might make for some interesting reading for those who want to dive deeper into the technical and tactical elements of the knives they are considering.
Overall, the Military is a very well made large folder, although it might be too big for some EDC applications. On the positive side, the big handle does allow for plenty of room for your hand, even if it is large or you happen to be wearing gloves (as is often the case in tactical situations). This is not a purely tactical blade, however, and does perform well across a range of cutting tasks.
(+) High value for the money
(+) Full flow through pillar construction with durable build quality
(+) Quick deployment with a solid lockup
(-) Good but not great slicing knife
(-) Smaller handle can be uncomfortable for harder cutting
The Chinese-made Persistence is a smaller version of the Tenacious model that is reviewed above. This model has an overall length of 6.8” (17.3cm) and weighs 3.3oz (102g).
The blade on the Persistence is 8CR13MoV and is a modified skinning style with a full flat grind. The blade, once again, features Spyderco’s trademark oversized round hole for ambidextrous, one-hand opening. The blade length is 2.75” (7cm) and it is .125” (3mm) in thickness.
The Persistence has a milled G-10 handle with skeletonized steel liners. It features a Walker linerlock and a 4-way pocket clip. The closed length is 4.125” (10.5cm).
The Persistence does a good job of incorporating all of the best qualities of the larger, and extremely popular, Tenacious. The Persistence, however, is not a 1:1 scaled down copy. There are some design differences, particularly in the blade, which is a bit stubbier and also shorter relative to handle length.
The Persistence is a good heavy-use type EDC. It will stand up to your everyday cutting chores and will take some abuse as well (just not too much abuse). It is also a great carrying knife that it is lightweight and rides well in the pocket.
One of the other high points of the Persistence—and the other Spyderco knives—is the leaf-shaped blade. It gives the knife some belly for improved slicing, but it also allows the knife to still have a precise tip. However, this knife does have a small handle and when you are bearing down on it for some more strenuous cuts, it does tend to get a little uncomfortable.
Spyderco Dragonfly 2
(+) Lightweight to the point that you forget it is there
(+) Tough blade that will retain its edge
(+) Nice, easy deployment
(-) Small for some purposes
(-) No handle liners, so somewhat less durable
The Dragonfly 2 is made in Japan and is a top seller for Spyderco. It features a mid-sized blade and a handle that places an emphasis on lighter weight and ergonomics. The overall length on the Dragonfly is 5.56” (14.1cm) and it weighs in at a feathery 1.2oz (34g).
The blade on the Dragonfly is made of ZDP-189, which is a Japanese steel that has a 3% carbon composition and is renowned for its hardness and edge retention. The blade length is 2.25” (5.7cm), with a .093” (2.5mm) thickness.
The handle is FRN and features Spyderco’s Bi-Directional texturing. It has a reversible, tip-up, wire clip. The handle also features jimping along its spine, a jimped finger choil on the blade, and a Back Lock mechanism.
The Dragonfly 2 can definitely be your go-to knife when it comes to lightweight EDC. It also represents an improvement over the first Dragonfly design by including jimping both on the thumb rail and the finger choil. This gives the Dragonfly great ergonomics, and a very solid feel for a knife this light.
One of the drawbacks to such a small knife, of course, is that it is not going to stand up to some heavy-duty tasks. However, you can easily integrate it into an overall carry system, with something heftier for the hard tasks.
(+) Fantastic ergonomics for a smaller handle
(+) Good cutting knife across a range of tasks
(+) At only 3oz, an easy carry
(-) Needs a big brother for survival, backpacking use
(-) Requires extra care to protect against corrosion
Spyderco’s Ambitious is more of an economy folder from Spyderco, yet one that still delivers in terms of quality features. The knife has an overall length of 5.812” (14.8cm) and weighs 3oz (85g).
The blade on the Ambitious is made of 8Cr13MoV. It has a length of 2.25” (5.7cm) and a blade thickness of .125” (3mm). The blade features a jimped thumb rail and an oversized hole for one-hand opening.
The handle on this knife is made of G-10 and features a Walker linerlock, skeletonized steel liners, and a lanyard hole. The clip is ambidextrous and can be converted for either tip-up or tip-down carry.
The Ambitious is the little brother to both the Tenacious and the Persistence, which are reviewed here. For its size, the Ambitious does well even with more intense cutting jobs like carving into wood. That is not to say that this a champion wood carver, but it can do jobs like this adequately well. This type of use, however, is going to represent about the limit in terms of rugged EDC jobs that the Ambitious can handle.
Due to its excellent ergonomics, this knife feels good even when doing more rigorous cutting tasks. Sure, a bigger knife with a larger handle would likely be more comfortable, but it is going to depend on what you want to get out of your EDC. As with the Dragonfly 2, the Ambitious may be a better fit for those who are looking to put together a multi-knife system, implementing two, maybe three, blades to cover a wide range of tasks.
Spyderco Manix 2
The Manix 2 is an EDC folder that has an overall length of 8.03” (20.4cm) and weighs 4.9oz (139g).
The blade is 3.37” (8.6cm) long and has a thickness of .125” (3mm). It is made of CPM S30V steel.
The G-10 handle features stainless steel liners, a back spacer, and a Ball Bearing Locking Mechanism that employs a hardened steel bearing encased in a polymer cage. The bearing is driven forward and wedges between a fixed anvil and the blade tang to secure lockup. It also has an ambidextrous pocket clip for tip-up carry.
This is yet another tactical blade. But when we say yet another, we do not mean that this is somehow a redundant, or an unnecessary model. What we mean is that once again Spyderco has pulled off a well executed and thoughtfully designed folder. The Manix 2, in fact, may sit at the top of the heap.
This knife is an extremely versatile folder. Its positive attributes ranging from easy deployment, to solid lockup, to excellent ergonomics make it a joy to carry.
With a blade length under 3.4”, the Manix 2 is able to fill the role of EDC, but also still be tactical. It can even make for a great hiking knife, especially if you prefer to go ultra-light and are trying to make every ounce count. The flat grind makes it a highly functional blade for many cutting chores. It is a great slicer, but can also work well as a skinning knife.
Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara2
(+) Very good value for this knife
(+) Intuitive feel and great ergonomics
(+) Full flat grind makes for easy cutting
(-) Blade steel is more prone to rust and corrosion
(-) Jimping on the thumb ramp is not up to Spyderco standards
The Byrd Cara Cara2 has undergone a bit of an upgrade from Spyderco over the past few years. These knives are now equipped with 4-way clips, full flat-ground blades, as well as improved ergonomics.
The blade is 8Cr13MoV and features a “comet” shaped opening hole. It also has a jimped thumb rail and finger choil for improved handling. It has a length of 3.75” (9.5cm) and a thickness of .125” (3mm). The knife has an overall length of 8.5” (21.6cm) and weighs 4.25oz (121g).
The handle on the Byrd is G-10 and features a mid-position back lock. The closed length is 4.75” (12.1cm).
Byrd knives are a different product offering from Spyderco. They are made in China and are positioned to be more of a budget blade. They do not have the Spyderco logo for starters. Another point of distinction is that the Cara Cara2 does not feature Spyderco’s trademark oversized round opening hole. Instead, it has a “comet” shaped hole.
The Byrds, however, do retain high-quality standards and some of the design elements of their more expensive big brothers. The Cara2 has solid ergonomics and a comfortable feel for both hard cutting tasks, as well as detail work. Blade deployment is very rapid, so they have not skimped in that area of design quality either.
For some, the comet opening hole might be a little bit of adjustment, especially if you are used to Spyderco’s round hole. But once you do get used to it … will you end up preferring the comet shape? Could be.
Spyderco Native 5
(+) S35VN is a very tough steel
(+) Tight lockup mechanism, no blade play
(+) Lightweight, comfortable carry
(-) Handle can be a little uncomfortable doing hard cutting tasks
(-) Slow deployment
The Native 5 is Spyderco’s first model to use Crucible Inc.’s powdered technology S35VN steel, which is a martensitic stainless designed for improved toughness over S30V. The knife also features a Bushing Pivot System for better open/close fluidity. The Native 5 is one of Spyderco’s U.S. made knives, manufactured in Golden, CO.
The blade length on this knife is 3” (7.6cm) and it has a thickness of .125” (3mm). The knife has an overall length of 6.875” (17.5cm) and weighs 3.7oz (105g). It has a full flat grind and a jimped finger choil.
The handle is G-10, with skeletonized liners, a full-length back spacer, and a back lock. The pocket clip is a 4-way design.
Ho hum, another awesome knife from Spyderco. This article might sound like we are nothing but a bunch Spyderco groupies, but that is not really the case. We always try to give the good, the bad, and the ugly of everything we review. But if a knife is good, or a manufacturer is consistently turning out quality product, then we are obliged to tell it that way. There is no point in trashing a great knife just for the sake of sounding “balanced”.
With that said, the Native 5 is a great EDC folder that rides very comfortably in the pocket. Coming in at less than 4 ounces, it qualifies for most as a lightweight carry. Also, S35VN is an impressive steel and the knife comes extremely sharp out of the box. One criticism, however, is that this handle, while nice, may not have the same incredible ergonomics as some other Spyderco offerings.
Spyderco Sage 3
The Sage 3 is a Taiwanese EDC folder. It features a bolt action lock developed by renowned knife maker Blackie Collins. The mechanism is designed to be lightweight but delivers maximum lockup strength.
The Sage 3 has an overall length of 7.25” (18.4cm) and weighs 3.5oz (100g). The blade is made of CPM S30V steel and has a length of 3” (7.6cm). The blade thickness is .125” (3mm).
The handle on this knife is G-10. It has an ergonomically contoured design and comes with a 4-way clip. The closed length is 4.313” (11cm) and it weighs 3.5oz (100g).
The Sage series pays homage to various influential knifemakers by featuring their locking mechanisms. The “3” is a tribute to Blackie Collins, who authored several books on knife making and is the holder of around 50 knife patents.
The bolt-action lock operates for the user much like a Benchmade axis lock. There is a sliding mechanism on the handle that releases the blade. Fans of Blackie Collins will no doubt love this knife. Many of his innovations ended up in cheaply made production knives, and the Sage 3 shows off his design in a quality setting.
Overall this knife is well suited for EDC purposes. The knife is lightweight and rides comfortably in your pocket. We did notice, however, that the Sage 3 is a bit tight when it comes to deployment. You might have some issues getting it dialed to your preferences.
So, does Spyderco have any dogs in its lineup? Sure. Every knife manufacturer puts out a clunker at times. Overall, though, when companies maintain their commitment to delivering excellent products, the low points are usually much fewer and farther between.
With these 10 folders, none fail to live up to the Spyderco’s quest to put out some of the best knives on the market. But in the end, it is really going to come down to what your preference is, and what you expect to get out of your folding knife.
We need your help! Tell us about your knife experience, or how your Spyderco stacks up against other knives you’ve owned. Your valued input makes us all better informed.
Image by brian.ch