As a young boy growing up in a rural area there were some very special milestones that I and most of my friends aspired to, like when you were handed your first pocket knife. Whether it was brand new or a hand-me-down that another family member had outgrown, it did not matter because now it was yours.
It was a different time, and although giving a boy his first knife was a big deal, having a knife was not. A knife was simply a tool, something you used every day without giving it much thought. I carried that belief with me into adulthood and into my law enforcement career.
When I first started, it was not a common practice to see a police officer carrying a knife. Sure, a lot did it but they were usually dropped into a pocket and not seen by the general public. Today it’s different; almost every officer carries a knife and most are visibly clipped to the pocket of their cargo pants.
As the popularity of knives grew within the law enforcement community, so did the availability of “tactical” or “duty” versions. The problem with this is just because something is labeled “tactical” does not mean it is actually suitable for duty. So, I have compiled a list of features I look for when selecting a duty knife.
Just keep in mind these are the features I look for and, although I think it will assist you in picking a suitable knife, there are certain “personal traits” you may want in your own knife. Plus, some specialized units may have a need for additional features. I hope these tips at least give you a foundation on which you can build your perfect knife.
Choosing a Tactical Knife: Size Matters
Knives are available in a variety of shapes and sizes from tiny 2″ folders that you can drop in a change pocket to massive 2 ft Bowies you need a caddy to carry for you. For most, a folder with a 3.5 – 4.5″ blade and 8 – 9″ overall length will be both functional and comfortable. Any smaller and you risk breaking it on even ordinary tasks. Any bigger and you will simply find it too difficult to carry day to day.
Choosing a Tactical Knife: Design
This really is a matter personal preference; however, I have come to like a few design traits that my favorite blades have shared.
Tanto blades outperform most others. The angled tip allows for both cutting and stabbing, when necessary, while retaining the ability to utilize a thick blade spine for extra durability.
Regardless of the design you choose, I would strongly encourage you to also consider a blade with a serrated section as well a thumb stud and a pocket clip. Serrated blades cut almost anything, even when dull, and a thumb stud can make a world of difference when trying to open one handed and under stress. Pocket clips make carrying it possible to carry and rapidly deploy without the use of a sheath. They also allow you to carry the same knife in the same location in and out of uniform.
Choosing a Tactical Knife: Material
The best of the best are made from Damascus steel, known for both its durability and sharpness. However, it is cost prohibitive and not widely available in everyday folders. Instead, many of today’s more respectable knife makers utilize AUS 8, known for durability as well as ease of sharpening.
The casing and grip should be made of a composite material to prevent cracking or shrinking, and include a checkered pattern for improved retention when wet. I have tried a few models that used a rubber-like material for improved comfort but found that over time, they tend to dry and crack which often renders them useless.
Choosing a Tactical Knife: Fit to Handle
The most important feature for any knife is also the most personal of all – how it fits in YOUR hand. It should be well balanced, not too heavy in either the grip or blade. The grip shape should also fit comfortably in your hand without sharp edges or pinch points. Finally, I avoid molded finger grooves. Not only do they fit poorly when the grip is reversed, but they also provide sharp edges and potential pinch points.
Choosing a tactical knife is a highly personal decision. Hopefully these tips give you something to think about when you’re making your next knife purchase.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the opinion of the writer and do not reflect the policies of this website or organization.
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