These 15 Pocketknife Brands Are Among The Most Diverse And Historic On The Planet.
A pocketknife is a legendary tool. Whether a folder or a fixed blade, with one blade or many, the pocketknife is used around the world for an endless amount of tasks.
The earliest pocketknives discovered date back to 600 BCE in Austria. Folding knives have been found dating to the Viking era and on the Iberian Peninsula from pre-Roman times. It shows that even millennia ago, people knew how usefulness and practicality of a portable knife.
For many, a good EDC knife is enough to satisfy their needs. For more intense knife users, they may need a blade that can handle processing a kill on a hunt or precisely carve a piece of cherry wood for a project.
Luckily, there are a ton of brands today turning out every shape and style of pocketknife. Honestly, factory offerings alone, there are too many to list here. Nevertheless, to better guide new buyers in a crowded marketplace, we’ll attempt to here.
Are these the best pock knife brands? We’ll leave that to the barbershop debate club. What is certain, these companies are a good starting point in finding the perfect pocketknife for your needs.
Along with the brands, we’ll also provide two choice knives that show off what the company is all about. Some may be best sellers, some may be historic models, but they’ll all be emblematic of the heart and soul of the brand.
Founded in 1974, by former Gerber Knives salesman Pete Kershaw, Kershaw Knives has grown to become one of the largest players in factory knives. Really, the company’s catalog is quite impressive, offering a full array of EDC knives, tactical models, fixed-blades and cooking knives. Yes, it’s a premier pocketknife brand too. However, the Oregon-based brand is perhaps best known for its assisted-opening models–such as the legendary Leek. Furthermore, Kershaw has won a number of BLADE® Knife of the Year® awards in different categories over the years.
Aside from selection, one of the more inviting aspects of Kershaw’s knives is their relative affordability, running anywhere from $26 to $200. Some of the price end is due to the fact many of its models are produced overseas. However, the Oregon-based company does continue to manufacture domestically, particularly automatics. Though, these options tend to come at a premium.
A sleek, tactical EDC, the Launch 13 is a nimble auto knife made at a relatively affordable price. A blade made of CPM154 steel connected to an anodized aluminum handle makes for a lightweight, yet durable package. The Wharncliffe blade is great for precise work and versatile enough to handle more intense use. MSRP: $179.99
Small enough to fit on a keychain, this handy multi-tool is a steal for the price. The 8Cr14MoV drop point is a great EDC knife, and comes with some extras, such as a built-in bottle opener and flathead screwdriver. MSRP: $25.59
Ontario Knife Company
Founded in the late 19th century in New York, the Ontario Knife Company has proven a versatile manufacturer that’s intertwined in the nation’s history–the military end of things. Based about an hour south of Buffalo, in Franklinville, the company offers a wide spectrum of knives to suit nearly any task, from waging war to prepping food.
Where OKC perhaps made its lasting impression is its military knives, in particular the M7 bayonet. Still utilized–though partially replaced–the implement first saw service in the Vietnam War. While best known for its military heritage, the company offers a fairly wide section of quality pocketknives that run the gamut. From classy folders to military-inspired flippers, OKC has a solution for camping, EDC, utility work or any other chore you cook up for it.
Lightweight and convenient, the OKC Navigator is a budget folder that has the stuff to become a trusty EDC sidekick. The attractive stainless-steel blade is scalpel-sharp and sports an attractive satin finish. The liner lock has a plastic handle, which cause some concern at its overall longevity. But, for the price, if your Navigator does get busted up it costs next to nothing to replace. MSRP: $14.95
Opinel is a French icon and has made knives in the Alps since the 1800s. The knives are crafted from both stainless and high-carbon steel and are connected to quality wood handles. The handle has become the company’s signature of sorts, with Opinel perhaps the most recognized manufacturer of wooden-handled knives.
The company keeps the models of its famous pocketknife simple, numbering them 1-13. The higher the number, the larger the blade. However, the #1 and #11 are no longer made and are highly collectible. Overall, the knives have gained a reputation as solid camping and outdoors knife. However, more than one person has found them useful in the kitchen. While these are the original Opinel knives, its famous locking collar is a bit more contemporary–added to the design in the 1950s.
The knife that made Opinel famous, the #8 has a 3.28-inch blade and a beechwood handle. There are no bells and whistles, it’s just high-quality steel, high-quality wood, and a knife that’s perfect for almost any situation. In 1985 the #8 was recognized by the Victoria and Albert Musem as one of the best-designed items in the world. MSRP: $18.
The #13 is the behemoth of the Opinel family. The blade is a whopping 8.75 inches, and the whole piece is 20 inches when opened. This isn’t an everyday carry. This knife would be a great wingman by the barbecue or in the kitchen. MSRP: $110
Ever since Hoyt Buck made his first knife back in 1902 and laid the groundwork for the company that bears his name, Buck Knives has been among the most beloved pocketknife brands in the world. By consistently innovating and pushing the envelope, Buck has evolved into one of the industry’s leaders and knife icon.
Buck pioneered the folding hunter, which continues to be a showpiece for the brand to this day. Creating a knife that could withstand the abuse of long hunts while also being able to fold away and fit in a pocket was revolutionary and turned the pocketknife industry on its head. More the famous folding hunter in a minute.
The company also allows customers to order custom knives. They can choose from customizing everything from cake knives and fixed-blade bowies to a whole suite of folders.
110 Folding Hunter Knife
Developed in 1963 when Al Buck wanted to make a durable knife for outdoorsmen who didn’t want to carry big fixed blades, the 110 Folding Hunter propelled Buck to new heights and continues to be a popular model. The 3.75-inch 420HC stainless clip point is attached to a Crelicam ebony handle scales with brass bolsters. The lockback design keeps the knife firmly in place while in use. MSRP: $59.99
841 Spring Pro – Carbon Fiber
If the 110 is a timeless classic, the 841 Spring Pro shows how Buck continues to push the boundary with contemporary knives. Ball-bearing tech allows the knife to open fluidly and the liner lock keeps the blade securely in place. The S30V drop point is an ideal tool for many daily tasks, and the carbon fiber handle provides added strength. MSRP: $179.99
One of the younger pocketknife brands on our list as it was founded only in 1994, Microtech has quickly become one of the nation’s premier pocketknife brands when it comes to auto knives. The brand helped pioneer out-the-front automatic knives in the mid-1990s. The company has worked extensively with the American military to develop knives for combat use, and some of those models are popular consumer options today.
The winner of numerous BLADE ShowⓇ awards, including American-Made Knife Of The Year in 2019, Microtech makes cutting-edge knives and keeps pushing the boundaries for what is possible in a pocketknife.
The flagship model of the company’s OTF line of knives, the Ultratech is made from M390 steel with a light, ergonomic handle made of aircraft aluminum. The dagger releases and retracts thanks to the double-action sliding button. With a 3.35-inch blade, and weighing just 3.5 ounces, the Ultratech has helped set the standard for quick, easy-to-use, auto knives. MSRP: $310
SOCOM Elite Auto
The SOCOM Elite Auto has been a popular choice since its inception over a quarter-century ago. The knife has undergone improvements over the years to make it adaptable to multiple environments and is sold in both auto and manual models. The 3.98-inch tanto blade is partially serrated and is made from M390 steel and an aluminum handle in-laid with composite materials from 3M. MSRP: $300
Victorinox makes high-quality kitchen knives and watches, but the knife that made them famous was the iconic red Swiss Army knife. Known around the world as one of the most versatile tools you can use, the SAK has evolved into the multi-tool of choice for millions of people.
Whether it’s a small keychain version, or a hulking large SAK with dozens of tools, the Swiss Army knife may be the most famous type of pocketknife on the planet.
One of the smaller models but one of the most well-known, the classic Swiss Army knife can fit on a keychain and can get you through most day-to-day tasks. With seven tools including a spear point, screwdriver, and scissors, the classic is the classic for a reason: it’s a compact EDC (it only weighs .7 of an ounce0 that can help solve most problems you’ll regularly encounter. MSRP: $19.99
Work Champ XL
One of the beefier models, the Work Champ XL has 31 functions. It’s a massive 12-ounce piece that has multiple blades, screwdrivers, saws, and so much more. It’s closer to a portable tool chest than a classic pocketknife, but it all easily folds away and can slide into your pocket or even hang from a keychain. MSRP: $259.99
If there’s a weapon with an edge, there’s a good chance that Cold Steel makes it. The Texas-based brand makes everything from classic pocketknives to kukris to swords and blunt-edge tools. The company was founded in California in 1980 and helped popularize the American tanto. Cold Steel currently has plants on four continents. They make knives based on traditional designs and also work with some of the world’s top designers to make custom knives. Cold Steel’s swords are usually made from 1055 high-carbon steel or damascus, and their pocketknives are renowned for their lock strength.
Recon 1 Tanto
This folding knife is popular with law enforcement and the military and anyone looking for a dependable, long-lasting tool ready for any situation. The blade is customizable and comes in four versions ranging from 2-5.5 inches in length. Thin, light, and over-engineered to be long-lasting, the Recon 1 Tanto features the Tri-Ad lock, which keeps your hands safe and your blade secure when in use.
No matter what version you get, the blade is made from American S35VN with a DLC coating and a G10 handle. The lone exception is the Micro Recon 1, which has an AUS 8A Tuff-Ex coated blade and G-10 styled Griv-Ex handle. MSRP: $176.99
Mini Leatherneck Tanto Point
With a 3.5-inch fixed blade, the Mini Leatherneck swings above its weight. The 8Cr13 MoV steel blade comes in three different styles and has a stainless steel guard with broad quillons to protect your hands. The handle is made from Kray-Ex and the included Secure-Ex sheath can fit a lanyard or be used with a C-clip. This is a durable budget model that would please any knife owner. MSRP: $29.99
Emerson Knives was founded by, and named for, custom knifemaker Ernest Emerson and his wife Mary in 1996. Not a traditional pocketknife brand, Emerson specializes in tactical folding knives and helped pioneer the knife style 20 years ago. The CQC-7 set the standard for tactical knives when it debuted and is still just as popular today. Emerson knives have been used by special forces and police agencies around the world and are also highly coveted by collectors. A knife used in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden fetched $35,400 at auction.
The iconic CQC-7 has been paired with a ball-bearing pivot system that allows for rapid deployment and is another evolution of the classic knife. The S35VN 57-59 HRC tanto point blade is paired with a G-10 handle. Not only does it open quickly, but it’s nimble in the hand at just five ounces in total weight. MSRP: $273.95
Just like how the dog is man’s best friend, the Sheepdog may be your new best friend. Coming in either a bowie or a spear point, the Sheepdog folder uses the same ball-bearing pivot system for quick opening. The black G-10 handle looks classy and provides an excellent grip. The 154 CM blade has a black stonewashed finish and is sharpened to a conventional V-grind with a chisel edge. MSRP: $263.65
CRKT, short for Columbia River Knife & Tool Company, was founded by a pair of former Kershaw employees. It has evolved into a pocketknife brand that’s built itself by working with custom knifemakers and producing quality products at quality prices. Like Kershaw, it’s headquarterd in Tualatin, Oregon, and since its founding in 1994 has grown to a company with $25 million in estimated annual sales. CRKT also makes multi-tools and fixed blades along with sharpeners and other knife accessories. Some of the designers they’ve worked with include Ken Onion, Michael Walker, Ron Lake, and Greg Lightfoot.
Designed by Kit Carson, this model is part of the company’s most popular series of knives. A tactically-inspired EDC, the M16-04KS has a 3.87-inch blade made of 12C27 Sandvik Steel with a plain edge. The handle is made from stainless, and the whole piece weighs just 6.2 ounces. MSRP: $79.99
This exciting karambit was designed by Joe Caswell and is the company’s first knife to feature its Kinematic technology that allows for a lightning-fast deployment with the push of your thumb. The D2 blade has a titanium nitride finish for added toughness, and the aluminum handle is strong yet light. MSRP: $200
Gerber Gear is among the largest maker of knives for the American military, and that ethos permeates their civilian offerings. The company makes everything from knives and multi-tools to axes and saws. They use high-quality steels to make long-lasting pieces that you can be proud of.
The company also has a long history with custom knives. They were the first firm to collaborate with a custom maker when they worked with David Murphy during World War II. Gerber has even worked with celebrities as they collaborated with TV star Bear Grylls on a line of survival knives.
Sharkbelly – Plain Edge
A 3.25-inch 420 HC sheepsfoot blade is the star of the Sharkbelly. It’s easily deployed with a thumb hole and weighs 2.3 ounces. The SharkSkin Grip helps keep weight down on this folder while also providing tremendous grip and ease of use. This is a fine EDC and built to last. MSRP: $47.
Terracraft – Grey
When slashing through brush you need to be confident that your blade can withstand the abuse and keep slicing. The Terracraft is a fixed blade that is up to the challenge. This knife features an extra-thick S30V steel blade with a full tang for added durability. Machined G-10 scales provide the needed grip so you feel safe while wielding the knife, and a 90-degree spine provides an edge for fire striking. An American-made leather sheath will keep this piece safe and secure in transit. MSRP: $220
Founded by BLADE Cutlery Hall Of Fame® member Sal Glesser, Spyderco has been making knives since 1978 with the promise of high performance in each model. The company’s knives are known for their famous, large thumb-assist hole, and they have experimented with numerous different steel compositions. Spyderco ships knives all across the world and are popular both with civilians and police and rescue personnel.
One of Spyderco’s line of micro-sized slipjoints, the Bug is small enough to fit on a keychain and features a straightforward design. This is a small EDC great for regular day-to-day living, but definitely can punch above its weight in a switch. The 1.26-inch blade is made from 3Cr13 steel, and the whole piece weighs just .4 ounces. MSRP: $33.
One of the brand’s iconic models and winner of American-Made Knife Of The Year® at BLADE Show 2022. The Military is an elite folding knife with a CPM S30V blade married to a handle with G-10 scales. The full-flat grind makes this knife great for sawing and making difficult cuts. It has a clip on the right side to allow for easy, tip-down carry. MSRP: $310.
Boker has been making knives in Germany since the 17th Century. A schism in the company in the 1860s sent some of the family to North America where they’re still making knives today. Both companies use the famous tree logo on their knives. Today, Boker has several brands beyond the original one still based in Solingen, Germany. Boker USA is based in Denver, and the Boker Arborlito brand of hunting and outdoor knives are made by hand at the company’s factory in Buenos Aries, Argentina.
Beautiful, useful, and a classic pocketknife. That’s a fair way to describe the Magnum Backpacker. The satin finish on the 440A steel blade looks great, and the flat grind makes it perform great too. The grained wooden handle looks and feels excellent. This is a knife worth far more than its budget price. MSRP: $43.95
This limited-edition blade is named for the German warship Tripitz, still the largest battleship ever built in Europe. The knife is a work of art. Utilizing some of the salvaged armoring from the ship, which was sunk in 1944, this model is truly a spectacle with its gold-plated blade. The blade has 300 layers of hand-forged damascus in the great pyramid pattern, and the walnut inlay on the handle features the coat of arms of the Tripitz. MSRP: $1,485
Hogue originally began as a firearms accessories–mainly grips–company based out of California. Since 2011, the company has manufactured knives that, due to Califoria’s draconian knife laws, forced the company to pull up stakes for Nevada. Good move, as in the decade as a knifemaker, Hogue has become perhaps as renowned for its blades as its gun accessories.
The company’s autos, in particular, have developed a dedicated following, thanks to aggressive designs. Hogue knives have been issued to all branches of the military over the years, further adding to the company’s lore and credence. Still a family affair, Hogue is also well-respected for the quality of its products.
Deka Manual Folder
This manual folder with a modified Wharncliffe is a unique pocketknife. The CPM 20V stainless blade has a 59-61 HRC with a stone-tumbled finish. What stands out, even more, is the G-Mascus Blue Lava G-10 frame, which provides a splash of cover and allows for a confident grip on the knife. MSRP: $184.95
EX-01 Manual Folder
This classy drop point can be just as good as a tactical knife as it can be your standard EDC. The drop point blade is made from 154CM stainless and has a push-button lock for safety. The high flat grind makes this a top-tier model for cutting and slicing whether that’s a cardboard box or a side of beef. MSRP: $249.95
The company may have changed its name twice, but the quality of Benchmade knives has never wavered. Originally called Balisong in 1979 and then Pacific Cutlery Company in 1988, the company became known as Benchmade in the 90s. The company gained fame for its butterfly, or balisong, knives and today makes premium knives of all types.
85 Billet TI Balisong
An update to a Benchmade classic, the 85 features a titanium handle assembly and a drop point blade. The internal ball bearings allow the knife to open smoothly every time and will give you the confidence to go for it while releasing the blade. The blade is made from CPM S30V steel, and the handle does double duty of strengthening the entire construction while keeping the weight under six ounces. MSRP: $695.
The Bugout line is one of Benchmade’s most popular line of folding knives. This newest version features M390 blade steel with detailed patterning on the aircraft-grade aluminum handle. A 2.5-ounce gem, this premium EDC is crafted to serve you well and last for decades. MSRP: $275.
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