I was told, and I believe, that you should never take something to war that you are afraid to lose. We are talking about possessions of the object kind, not your life. It is one thing to have a tool that fits the bill and is something you spent a great deal of money on. It is another to value the tool too much to the point you might risk your life if you lost it.
Good luck charms are okay, but family heirlooms are not something taken into the sandbox lightly. And yet some, and I am one of them, still took knives that had been with me for a while and that I fully expected to use, abuse, and perhaps lose.
There are cheap knives out there. Any gas station can show you a selection of outlandish folders that they claim are “tactical” and while they all cut, how long they last is a different story. Quality can still be bought at a reasonable price depending upon what you want but we all have our ideas.
There are several things I look for in a tactical folder that I will not do without to the point that I only buy that kind of knife. Here is my list, my reasons, and my brand of preference. What are yours?
- Tip down carry: We all know that operator headspace and timing is a great part of self-inflicted cuts to our hands because we did something dumb. However, in a tactical folder, I must have a tip-down carry. I am not even sure why anyone would consider anything else except that proper clip mounting is a more challenging prospect when the mounting hardware has to contend with the action of the blade opening. But I am not a fan of sticking my hand into my pocket and getting impaled or lacerated because the blade opened up.
- Blade length: 3 inches is plenty, and no that is not what she said. The military, outside of combat zones, gets particular about blade length and state laws are just as confining. I have seen tactical folders that had larger profiles closed that some fixed blades and wondered at the sanity or testosterone deficiency of the owner. The tactical folder exists to provide you with a quality blade backup when the larger fixed blade is not available or not practical. It is not a substitute. If you are carrying a folding machete in your pocket, you need to re-evaluate your life choices.
- Non-Serrated: I only have one knife in my possession that has serrations on the blade at the base. It was a gift. I don’t prefer a blade with a mixed edge. I want a plain edge and I like it that way. While there is nothing wrong with serrated blades or even mixed, I prefer a plain edge.
- Blade type Drop Point: there are many blade styles but a simple and clean drop point is the one I prefer the most. It gets the job done and sharpening does not require any extras. It helps that this is the most common type but I like it.
- Handle material: I prefer titanium if I can get it. I have carried a titanium handle folder for the last 15 years and love both knives. I have recently added a G10 handle and it is decent. I want a thin profile with lots of strength and I love the feel of titanium.
- Assisted opening: Tactical folders are something that you need to get into the action with one hand and do it quickly. While I have manual openers that you can get into operation with ease, assisted opening in a tactical folder is the way to go. Most importantly is an assisted opener you can adjust the tension on. Being able to tune the knife action is a must. If I cannot adjust it to my tastes, I don’t carry it. And at the same time, the adjustments have to stay in tune. I don’t want self-inflicted damage because the action got so lose that it was opening in my pocket. Fully automatic is nice but not available for carrying in every location and except as collector items, not very useful if you cannot carry it.
I did not mention cost because that can vary. I am willing, and have, spent up to $300.00 dollars on a nice tactical folder. I might be convinced to spend more but not by much. There are some art pieces out there that cost dearly but they are beautiful. I am not buying something for its beauty. Nor am I willing to go out on a limb for a custom knifemaker. I have seen some awesome blades that I would love to have but not at the price they need to make in order to stay in business.
My brand of choice that fits the bill is Benchmade. I have owned a Pinnacle tactical folder since 2000 and have always had one in my pocket in peace and war. When I replaced it, I went with a Subrosa and I have a Torrent as well. The first knife I gave to my daughter was a Benchmade and the next one I buy will one as well.
So what is your brand? Do you want cheap that will cut but is not something you really care about or are you the type that will spend the big bucks because you want the most quality you can get?
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on February 19, 2019.
Leonard O. Benton is retired from active duty military service with 24 years and two combat deployments to Iraq. He left the Regular Army after 10 years and became a National Guard Recruiter for his first tour in the AGR program followed by over 10 years in Operations as Force Protection, CBRN, and three years as C-IED. He has an Associates’s degree and is currently working on his Bachelor’s. He is an amateur metalsmith and when he is not working or writing he can often be found in his shop pounding away in the attempt to transform a lump of metal into an icon of beauty or function.
His years of operational planning, threat analysis, and a deeply cynical view of our imperfect world leads him to focus on world events and cultural beliefs that tend to cause the most friction and chaos in the world around us. He is a libertarian and he believes in personal freedoms and accountability. The Havok Journal gave him an outlet to express the things he sees wrong in the world and the opportunity to once again provide advice on how to fix it. Leonard can be contacted a email@example.com.