The 7 Best Tanto Folding Knives in 2021 for Your Tactical Needs

Benjamin Roussey


When it comes to tactical knives, there are a number of different options to choose from. There are pocket knives, folding knives, fixed blade knives, and they all come in various shapes and sizes. The wide range of blade shapes is also confusing to beginners.

That is why, when shopping for a tactical knife for the first time, it is important to do a bit of research to decide on the type of knife that will fit your purpose. Usually, a folding knife is the most preferred choice because the blade remains secure when closed.

Basic Considerations

When choosing a folding knife, the quality, size, and weight are the first considerations. Because a folding knife is either carried on a belt loop or a backpack, it should be lightweight and not add to the bulk. At the same time, it should be sturdy and not break into half during use.

The quality of the blade and the handle must also be considered. Today’s knives mostly have stainless steel or carbon steel blades, while the handles come in a variety of materials, from wood to steel to composite fiber.

Each material offers a different level of durability. Full tang knives – forged from a single piece of metal – usually are the most durable. Wood handles may wear out after long use but are easy to replace. Composite fiber handles are lightweight and sturdy, but may not be too comfortable to hold.


With a variety of knives available online, it is hard to not make a purchase right from home. But when buying a knife, it is recommended to touch and hold the knife to see how it fits and feels in your hand. A tactical knife should weigh no more than 5 to 7 ounces. If it weighs 10 pounds but that sword down that you are holding in the museum! Museums don’t like it when you touch the exhibits! You have probably been watching those goofy Night in the Museum movies too much!

Anything heavier than that would be difficult to carry and to use. Unless you hold the knife in your hand, you cannot tell if it’s too heavy for you. Price is another factor to consider when purchasing a survival knife. Not everyone wants to be bankrupt like New York and California!

Do you want a cheap $20 knife or a branded $200 one? The choice is entirely up to you, but with branded knives, you get better quality and guarantee.

The blade shape is also crucial to the purpose of the knife. The different types of blade shapes are trailing point, clip point, drop point, spear point, needle point, spey point, and tanto. Here we talk about the tanto blade and its advantages.

At a Glance: Our Choices for The 7 Best Tanto Folding Knives

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

Advantages of a Tango Knife and How to Choose One

The tanto knife was first developed in Japan. The tanto knife can either be a double or a single sided dagger, with the blade usually six to 12 inches in length. Tanto knives originally had a san mei construction and were heat treated to create a hamon.

Tanto blade knives were first used by Japanese Samurai as a weapon for slashing and stabbing (not for changing channels on the black and white TV!). The modern tanto knife still bears most of the features of the traditional Japanese dagger, but for more convenience, the knife has changed shape and form.

The original tanto blade knife was a long dagger used for fighting. Such traditional daggers are still available for sword fighting, but tanto blade folding knives are basically pocket knives with a tanto blade.

The modern tanto knife still has a trailing point blade but the grind, bevel, and tip are very different from the traditional knife. Many modern tanto knives also have a guard whereas the traditional Japanese tanto did not have a guard.

The tanto knife was developed during the Heian Period in Japan as a killing weapon. The Fujiwara family was in power during this period, and their soldiers, called the samurais, first created the tanto knife for protecting the Fujiwara family against enemies. Those samurais in that picture in that amazing Transformers 5 movie used these knives!

Later, the tanto blade went from being just functional to ornamental as well, with new blade types, styles, and widths being developed. However, the many wars in Japan did not help the ornamental knives survive because they were being mass produced for soldiers.

After WWII, Japan banned the use of blades, the tanto knife saw a resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s because of American and European efforts.

The Cold Steel Company is among the first to have popularized the modern tanto knife. The blade came to be known for its strength and durability, useful points and quality pommel. All these factors contribute to the Tanto blade’s performance, functionality, and durability.

Advantages of a tanto knife are:

Strength: The strength of a tanto knife is better than other types of blades. A tanto knife is crafted with a high point, as well as a flat grind. This provides the tool with exceptional strength to pierce even the hardest surfaces. A tanto knife lasts long and doesn’t wear out easily with regular use.

Blade point: A tanto knife has a blade point similar to that of a chisel. This makes the blade more powerful and durable as opposed to other types of blade points. Even though this isn’t considered the ideal blade point type for use for survival situations, it does make for a great self-defense tool.

Design: The Japanese design of the blade lends it a traditional and aesthetic appeal. The blade point of the tanto is aligned perfectly with its spine, reminiscent of Japanese’s craftsmanship.

Pommel: The tanto knife’s pommel is tapered and made of steel. It is designed to absorb the maximum impact, and also deliver the maximum performance. Even a minor blow from a tanto knife can give a heavy impact.

Ease of sharpening: The tanto blade is easy to sharpen – which means you can keep it sharp so you can kill more walkers (biters as the despicable governor called them) from The Walking Dead! A straight blade can be easily sharpened on a stone, a ceramic rod can be used for curved blades.

Top 7 Tanto Folding Knives


Kershaw 1990 Brawler

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: (4.9/5)
Steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade: 3.25 in
Thickness: 0.12 in
Handle Lenght: 4.125 in
Overall: 7.125 in
Weight: 3.8 oz

(+) Decent blade and handle
(+) Easy assisted opening and solid lockup
(+) Good edge retention
(+) Comfortable grip
(-) Blade play on extended use
(-) Gives rough spots on the thumb

Kershaw is a renowned knife maker, established in 1974. The Kershaw 1990 Brawler is one of the most popular everyday carry knives from the company, first released in 2012. The knife looks very simple and elegant, but also packs quite a punch despite its size.

This tanto liner lock knife features Speed Safe assisted opening technology, while the seven-inch length and 3.8 ounces of weight make the knife comfortable to hold and use. The handle scales are made of textured fiber reinforced nylon with stonewashed liners.

The blade is made of 8Cr13MoV steel, which is a quality steel used on budget Chinese knives. The blade has decent edge retention and corrosion resistance, and sharpens easily. The blade has a black oxide coating.

The deployment is fast and smooth because of the assisted opening, and the lock-up is also decent, with no blade play. The liners and liner lock are lightweight yet strong enough. The knife doesn’t have the traditional stop pin, but the blade stops have an excellent function. At $25, this is a quality tanto knife. With these amazing tax cuts, you know that is not that much money!

Conclusion on the Kershaw 1990 Brawler: Even after six years of its release, the Brawler remains a bestseller from Kershaw. If you’re looking for a quality budget tanto knife, the Brawler fits the bill perfectly.

No, you don’t want to use these at IHOP to spread butter on your pancakes!


Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS Folding 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

Our Rating: (4.9/5)
Steel: 7Cr17
Blade: 4.375 in
Thickness: 0.15 in
Handle lenght: 5.50 in
Overall: 9.875 in
Weight: 8.90 oz

(+) Rugged build
(+) Durable and sturdy
(+) Sharp steel blade and aluminum handle
(+) Affordable
(-) Slightly heavy
(-) Doesn’t come sharp

For a multipurpose cutting tool for everyday use, look no further than the Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS Folding Knife. A medium sized everyday carry, this one is a budget knife that any survival enthusiast will want to own.

The overall length of the knife is 10 inch with a blade length of 4.4 inches, and the knife weighs only 8.8 ounces. Although this is much heavier than other folding knives, it must be kept in mind that this knife isn’t really small.

It is medium sized, which is perfectly suitable for both simple cutting as well as heavy-duty tasks. The tanto blade is made of 7Cr17MoV high carbon black oxide stainless steel. The black aluminum handle comes with Trac-Tec inserts.

The knife is not only sturdy but also dependable and smooth, with a pocket clip for portability, and thumb knobs for easy deployment. The liner lock makes sure there’s no blade play when the knife is closed. The knife also features dual blood grooves, a glass break, and strap cutter. For under $25, this is a remarkable tanto knife for all cutting purposes.

Conclusion on the Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS Folding Knife: If you’re looking for a solid and sturdy knife without breaking the bank, then this one should be your pick.

No, this knife should not be used to cut the turkey during the Thanksgiving. That is just strange!


Columbia River Knife and Tool’s M16-14SFG Special Forces Folding Knife

CRKT M16-14SFG EDC Folding Pocket Knife: Special Forces Everyday Carry, Black Serrated Edge Blade, Tanto, Automated Liner Safety, Dual Hilt, G10 Handle, 4-Position Pocket Clip

Our Rating: (4.7/5)
Steel: 8Cr14MoV
Blade: 3.875 in
Thickness: 0.14 in
Handle Lenght: 5.375 in
Overall: 9.25 in
Weight: 5.90 oz

(+) Sturdy build
(+) Effective auto locking system
(+) Looks good and feels great
(+) Scales have a good grip
(-) Serrations get nicked easily
(-) Jimping is aggressive
(-) No flipper

The Columbia River Knife and Tool is a renowned company famous for producing a variety of knives and other utility tools.

The M16 series is a wildly successful one by the company and was named one of the Top 10 Tactical Folders of the Decade by Blade Magazine. This one from the series is a hefty utility knife, with a 3.875 inches dual grind Tanto blade and full-size handle with butt pommel.

The whole knife is made in non-reflective tactical black. The blade also has a black titanium nitride coating for maximum corrosion resistance. The standard dual checkered thumb studs are also present for one-handed opening and closing.

The knife also comes with automated liner safety, which sets a pin between the locking liner and the frame. The pin acts as an additional layer of safety, there’s no chance of blade play when the knife is closed.

Deployment and lockup are easy. To close the knife, the red buttoned safety lever has to be pulled back, sliding the locking liner over, and folding the blade into the closed position. The handle features black G10 scales, stainless steel liners with friction grooves, and premium 8Cr14MoV stainless steel blade.

Conclusion on the Columbia River Knife and Tool’s M16-14SFG Special Forces Folding Knife: This is a good knife that comes with its share of flaws. But it costs less than $40 and has a sturdy, solid build, good for everyday use.

If you have a choice between the Columbia River Knife and the DVD of Star Wars The Last Jedi which was one of the worst movies in 2017 (even worse than Thor III – he could not even break out of a net!) you should buy this knife. The store or website should pay you just to watch a movie that was that pathetic.


Benchmade – Osborne 940 Knife

Benchmade - 940 EDC Manual Open Folding Knife Made in USA, Reverse Tanto Blade, Plain Edge, Satin Finish, Green Handle

Our Rating: (4.6/5)
Steel: CPM-S90V
Blade: 3.40 in
Thickness: 0.12 in
Handle: 4.47 in
Overall: 7.87 in
Weight: 2.44 oz

(+) Great materials all around
(+) Thoughtful, well-executed design
(+) D2 steel is a great grade for this price point
(-) Utility knife, not heavy-duty
(-) Product can be slightly inconsistent

The Osbourne 940 is regarded as one of the most reliable EDCs of all time. Aside from being slim and stylish, this knife has been put to test in every situation imaginable.

It is meant for both everyday and survival use and comes with axis locking mechanism. It has a manual deployment. The blade is made of CPM-S30V stainless steel with superior edge retention and rust resistance.

The aluminum handle offers solid form and function minus the weight. This well-designed knife has an overall length of eight inches, and the total weight is 7 ounces. The lightweight design makes the knife comfortable to hold and use. There’s also a reversible pocket clip.

Conclusion on the Benchmade Osborne 940 Knife: If you’ve always wondered what the hype is all about, it’s time to believe it, because Benchmade lives up to all expectations. At $180, this seems a little expensive but it’s worth every penny.

With the economy soaring up like it is, more people can afford to make this purchase.


SOG VL-03 Vulcan Tanto Folding Knife

SOG EDC Tactical Knife - Vulcan Tanto Knife

Our Rating: (4.6/5)
Steel: VG-10
Blade: 3.50 in
Thickness: 0.16 in
Handle: 4.875 in
Overall: 8.375 in
Weight: 5.00 oz

(+) Handy and compact
(+) Lightweight and durable
(+) Strong San Mai steel blade
(+) Reinforced nylon handle
(-) Expensive

Another reputed tanto knife is the SOG VL-03 Vulcan. It comes with arc-lock locking mechanism and ambidextrous slotted double-thumb studs.

The 3.5-inch San Mai VG10 steel blade has a tanto shape and a straight edge and satin finish. Easy to open and close with one hand, the knife has a handle made of glass-reinforced nylon with a black finish. This everyday carry knife comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

Conclusion on the SOG VL-03 Vulcan Tanto Folding Knife: This is a great starter knife for all beginners. Ask anyone who’s ever used and owned a SOG knife; they are not just knives. They are cutting machines and look like works of art.

No, this type of knife should not be brought to the office – that would not be wise. HR may have an issue with that!


Schrade SCHA3BS Folding Knife

Schrade SCHA3BS 7.3in High Carbon S.S. Assisted Opening Folding Knife with 2.9in Tanto Blade and Aluminum Handle for Outdoor Survival, Tactical and EDC

Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel: 4034
Blade: 3.00 in
Thickness: 0.12 in
Handle: 4.375 in
Overall: 7.375 in
Weight: 5.23 oz

(+) Affordable
(+) Smooth and easy deployment
(+) Secure locking mechanism
(+) Strong steel blade
(-) A little on the heavier side

This affordable knife comes with the dual patented, assisted opening mechanism that is a standard part of Schrade knives. This assisted opening mechanism is the easiest and smoothest single handed opening system on any knife.

The knife has a 2.8-inch stainless steel blade with an overall length of 7.1 inches. The tanto blade is partially serrated with ambidextrous thumb plate, black aluminum handle with rubber insert and safety lock. There’s also a liner lock and a pocket clip carry system.

Conclusion on the Schrade SCHA3BS Folding Knife: If you don’t mind a heavy knife, this one is worth every penny. At $40, it offers decent quality and performance.

This knife can eliminate plenty of terrorists – Europeans need this that is for sure and much more after all those terrorist attacks.


Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto Knife

Cold Steel 27TLCT Folding Knives, Black

Our Rating: (4.5/5)
Steel: CTS-XHP
Blade: 4.00 in
Thickness: 0.14 in
Closed: 5.375 in
Overall: 9.375 in
Weight: 5.30 oz

(+) Razor sharp
(+) Value for money
(+) Tough and durable
(-) Blade lock isn’t perfect

Cold Steel was the company that popularized the tanto knife in the 70s and 80s. This knife is popular with military and law enforcement personnel as well as ordinary people who love a reliable tool. This durable knife is thin, light, razor sharp, and comes with a Tri-Ad lock to keep your fingers safe. The knife is 9 inches long and weighs only 5 ounces.

Conclusion on the Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto Knife: If you like to have folding knives from reputed brands, then this classic should be in your collection. It’s a complete value for money and offers excellent performance. Hopefully, you don’t ever have to use it in an act of violence but Jack Bauer cannot be everywhere.

Final Points

The tanto blade is traditional and efficient, and tanto knives are also aesthetically pleasing. Whether you’re a knife enthusiast or a survival adventurer, a tanto must find a place in your collection.

Image by mr.smashy and [mementosis]

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