Exactly what constitutes a tactical knife has been addressed in BLADE®, other knife magazines—one of which was even called Tactical Knives—KnifeForums and other knife discussion forums, social media, books, the national media and elsewhere. Some originally described it, and still do, as a folding or fixed-blade knife with a non-glare blade and black synthetic handle ideal for any number of utility purposes, including combat. There are other qualifications but these three seem to universally apply to tactical knives.
As noted by many, BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame© member and Spyderco founder Sal Glesser once said a tactical knife is any knife you have with you when you need a knife. Such a definition also would seem to apply to an everyday carry (EDC) knife. The Wall Street Journal once even referred to a Buck Metro keychain knife as a tactical knife. Go figure (though, technically, the Buck Metro would seem to fit both Glesser’s definition and the EDC comparison and, thus, the definition of a tactical knife). Others insist the term tactical knife is no more than a marketing gimmick.
As for who the father of tactical knives is, that is a question guaranteed to spark healthy debates. Some say custom knifemaker Bob Terzuola made the first tactical folding knife, while others say custom knifemaker Ernest Emerson did. Some say any number of other makers made the first one. The argument even can be made that the original popularizer of the term is Greg Walker, editor of the now-defunct Fighting Knives magazine, who wrote extensively about tactical knives during FK’s run in the 1990s. Some say the original tactical knife is the Buck 110 folding hunter, which was introduced in 1964 and used by many American GIs in the Vietnam War. Of course, if Glesser’s definition holds true, then the first knife fashioned by early man from a bone, rock, obsidian or what have you many millennia ago is the original tactical knife.
Whatever the case, tactical knives have been hot for over two decades with no end in sight. Observers have predicted the end of the tactical knife phenomenon any number of times, with the knife and its spinoffs enjoying almost as many popularity spikes as the predictions of its demise. About the only thing that seems certain about tactical knives is that such forecasts will continue until one of them actually comes true.
Then again, who really knows anything for sure when the subject is tactical knives?