The Tanto Blade Is An Ancient Style That Has Received A Modern Revival For Tactical Folders.
Historically, the Japanese tanto is a short sword. In fact, the word “tanto” translates as “short sword,” and the historical old blades were used by samurai during Japan’s feudal era.
The Japanese tanto can be single or double-edged and usually is between 5-12 inches in length. It was primarily a stabbing weapon to be used on the battlefield, but could slash effectively as well. There are tantos that date back more than 1,000 years to ancient Japan, and they are still made today.
The Modern Tanto
Circa the late 1970s, Bob Lum took the traditional Japanese tanto and Americanized it. He equipped a knife blade with a katana-sword-style tip. He incorporated the hamiguri, or appleseed grind, along with a hollow grind extending to meet the heavy, convex, aka armor-piercing, tip. It is an angular edge with two cutting planes rather than a curved or straight belly like a drop point or other point styles.
The Americanized tanto blade is popular for tactical knives, and all but one knife on our list is a tactical piece. Knife users want utility and versatility, and the tanto is a perfect mix of both.
Ontario Ti 22 Equinox
This small folder from Ontario Knife Company features a black powder-coated CPM S35VN blade attached to a lightweight titanium handle that is bronze in color. The blade is a shade over three inches in length, and it’s been heat treated to a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 HRC. The blade opens via a flipper and is held in place by a framelock.
The minimalist knife is svelte at just 2.8 ounces, making it fun and easy to use. There are no bells or whistles on this piece because they aren’t needed. It’s quality from top to bottom.
Another fun flipper to use, this time from Case Knives, the Kinzua is an elegant EDC that would be just as comfortable at home as it would at a jobsite.
The stainless blade steel is satin-finished CPM S35VN, and the handle is anodized aluminum. Together, they cut an eye-catching profile, and that only adds to the quality of the knife. The steel is rugged and can cut through strong, rigid material just as easily as it can open an envelope or cut through tape on a gift box. The handle comes in multiple colors, and the framelock will give you peace of mind as you work with the Kinzua.
CRKT Special Forces M16-14SFG
This is the lone serrated knife on the list. The Special Forces M16 flipper folder from CRKT is a textbook tactical tanto designed by BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member Kit Carson. The 3.875-inch 8Cr14MoV stainless steel blade has a titanium nitride coating to add corrosion resistance. The G10 handle provides a secure grip in all seasons and conditions.
The series of Veff serrations toward the heel of the blade adds an extra cutting dynamic to the steel and make slicing a breeze. And the dual hilt/flipper protects your hand from sliding up the handle and getting caught on the serrations.
Cold Steel Recon 1
This knife from Cold Steel is the real deal. The all-black look is as tactical as it gets, and since the blade comes in both 2- and 4-inch versions, you’ll be able to find the knife best for you. Both versions are made from DLC-coated American CPM S35VN steel and feature the company’s Tri-Ad lock.
If you get the longer blade it makes for a beefy knife that’s 9 inches long when fully deployed. Including its 5-ounce weight, it’s one of the bigger knives on our list. This makes it great to use, as the added weight provides extra strength and force.
The black G10 handle, like on the CRKT knife, feels safe and secure in the hand.
Kershaw 1990 Brawler
Wrapping up our list is a great budget option. The 1990 Brawler from Kershaw is a multipurpose knife featuring a modified tanto tip and a blade made from 8Cr13MoV stainless steel. The angled glass-filled-nylon handle is lightweight and curved to fit comfortably in your hand.
The swedge on the spine helps narrow the blade, allowing it to pierce more precisely. The assisted-opening flipper is fun and fast to use and everything is held in place with a linerlock.
This really is a great affordable knife.
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