Tactical Knife Comparison Overview


by Greg Quinn

photography by Greg Quinn

January 24th, 2004




SHOT Show 2003, as does every SHOT Show, highlighted all kinds of new products as well as old standbys that we know and love.  The Gunblast brothers viewed and touched practically every product there, from guns, optics, knives, ammo, cases, and safes to clothing, ATVs, tree stands, holsters, calls, and everything in between.  We make it not only a fun adventure, but a commitment to our readers as well as an obligation, to review and reply regarding new and innovative products to our faithful Gunblast.com readership. 

In the past 11 months since SHOT 2003, Gunblast.com has tested and written articles on dozens of products.  Some tests have been fairly simple; you get the product in for testing, you fire it, use it, and sometimes abuse it for days or weeks, then you send the products back to the manufacturer.  Others have demanded a long-term commitment to the test of these products.  While we mostly write about guns (our passion), we also have a desire to report to our readership test information on other products that gun owners may use.  Knives are one of these products.  And, we discovered that the best way to test knives, especially those used of a tactical nature, are to consider these a long-term endurance and performance test.  So, here we are 11 months after first viewing the products, writing articles on months of use and abuse on the excellent tactical knives that make up this series of articles.

During SHOT 2003, we wanted to extend a special challenge to the tactical knife manufacturers.  I spoke with top representatives at every tactical knife manufacturer at SHOT to encourage them to send us samples of their tactical knife products for a series of long-term tests on “tactical knives”.  We chose this category due to the popularity of tactical knives, but also to go along with tests we were performing on “tactical guns” such as 1911’s, AR15’s, AR10’s, and the like.  A quick look at our Articles Archive section will reveal many articles of this type.

We extended this invitation to many tactical knife manufacturers at SHOT 2003.  Electing to participate in these tests were the fine folks at Cold Steel, Ka-Bar, Kershaw, SOG, Spyderco, Ontario, and Buck.  For approximately 9 months now, we have been utilizing these tactical knives, and now feel ready to report to our readership about these products.

Our test knives included both fixed-blade and folder models of tactical knives.  We consider “tactical” products to be those utilized in stealth, police, military, and similar environments demanding an exceptional quality product.  In our minds, a tactical knife should be one that could be utilized as if your very life depended on it.  When we think of “tactical knives”, we think of those used by our military and police units.  The representative products in these articles are often products utilized currently by special units of the US and abroad military and police forces every day.  The manufacturers of these products must create knives worthy of use in extreme situations, and to be selected as a product vendor by our government requires that the product be exceptional in terms of quality, design, and performance under rigorous conditions.

Gunblast.com elected to not perform the same kinds of tests that the manufacturers themselves have performed on these products.  Nor will we attempt to replicate military testing.  Some manufacturers, notably Ka-Bar and Cold Steel, are well-known for the torture tests they put their products through during development and testing.  Three brothers from Tennessee can in no way exceed the performance tests of all the manufacturers whose products we were privileged to use.  If you purchase one of the tactical knife products by any of these manufacturers that have been selected for use by our US military or police, you can rest assured that the product has undergone extensive torture testing.  We don’t even pretend to be able to improve upon or even replicate this testing.  Therefore, we chose to submit these products to use just as you and I, gun owners and sportsmen, may use these products throughout the course of a year.  This article represents the first of several reporting on these tactical knives after 9 months or so of often rigorous use.

Our use included daily carry, and cutting things typical as well as things we shouldn’t have attempted to cut with a knife.  Over the past months we’ve not had one failure with any of these products.  We’ve not broken one blade.  We’ve failed to significantly bend a blade.  Most have retained their edge even in demanding use.  We’ve nicked a blade or two while using a knife as a screwdriver and in doing other things for which these products were not designed.  We’ve cut tree roots with the Kukris, we’ve skinned deer, we’ve cut through deer bones, we’ve pried items that would have been better suited for a pry-bar, we’ve thrown the fixed blades into rocks and trees and hard soil, we’ve cut ropes and wire, we’ve carved and whittled, we’ve dug rocks, we’ve cleaned fingernails, and yes, we’ve even almost cut one of our fingers off at one time (we’re sworn to secrecy about this accident; no fault of the product and we can’t discuss the fault of the user).

We’ll talk about some of these manufacturer’s specific products individually in other articles.  Let’s just say now that all of the tactical knife products we tested by Cold Steel, Spyderco, Ka-Bar, Buck, SOG, Kershaw, and Ontario were of high quality.  Each of us Gunblast boys have individual preferences, but every one of these products performed exceptionally for use as designed.  Some of the military-issue products were practically indestructible.  Some exhibited unique innovation, while others stayed true to time-honored designs.  We don’t think you’ll be disappointed with any of these fine quality tactical knives.

So, if you are in the market for a tactical knife, one that can withstand harsh use and still perform admirably in life-threatening situations, Gunblast.com believes you have some excellent choices, and these represented on the pages of Gunblast.com are among the best products on the market.  The products represented in this and subsequent articles shouldn’t fail you.  They haven’t failed us through months of punishing use, and should serve you very well for a long, long time.

Next month we go to SHOT Show 2004.  Watch as we provide information to you throughout the year as we test additional new knife products discovered at this year’s SHOT.

Greg Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

All content © 2004 GunBlast.com. All rights reserved.

Click pictures for a larger version.


A sampling of knives along with other “tactical” products.  Shown in this photo are as follows:  Colt Match HBAR .223, Springfield Armory TRP .45, Federal Hydra-Shok .45 230 grain JHP, Ka-Bar Kukri machete, Ka-Bar Tanto fixed blade, SOG X-Ray Vision folder, Spyderco Police model folder, and Glock 19 .9mm.



Some of the tactical folders that we’ve tested over the past months.  Pictured clockwise are: Buck Strider Tactical folder, buttstock of DPMS LoPro AR15, Spyderco Police, SOG X-Ray Vision, Glock 19, SOG Duo, and Kershaw 1600BLK.



A sampling of excellent tactical fixed-blade knives tested by Gunblast.com.  They are as follows (left to right, shown with a pre-ban SKS and Colt Match HBAR):  Ontario Spec Plus RTAK, Ontario Spec Plus SP13 Tanto 8, SOG S37 Navy Seal, Kershaw Vertigo Fixed, SOG S21 Government Agent, Ontario Spec Plus SPII Bolo, and Ontario MK3-Mod 0.