Buying a knife used to be easier. But now, whether you are buying a survival knife, pocket knife, or just looking at any manufacturer’s website to gather information, it can get quite confusing.
There was a time when most people’s idea of an “everyday carry” knife consisted of one of the many different types of traditional pocket knife patterns. Their idea of a tactical folder was an Italian-style stiletto, not the modern looking EDC knives you see today.
These days, there seems to be a mass exodus away from the traditional pocket knife patterns of old to what seems to be a long line of various designs of tactical folders which can also serve very well as every-day-carry knives.
In this article, we will talk about both modern and traditional knife patterns because both forms of knives are completely viable options as knives that you can use and carry every day.
Below we’ve put together a quick comparison chart of our three favorites. If you like in-depth guides, take a look at our buyer’s guide along with all 20 of our top picks, along with pictures & specs for each knife.
OUR TOP THREE PICKS
BEST OVERALL VALUE
BEST HIGH END
BUCK 110 HUNTER
In the comparison chart above, you will find our top three picks, each in their own category:
1. Overall Value: Great combination of both quality and budget combined
2. High End: The perfect choice if budget isn’t an issue
3. Traditional: Top old school traditional pick
If you still need more help picking the right knife for your needs, our Buyer’s Guide & Advice section should help you along the way.
We’ve also broken each of our top choices down in more detail which you can get to easily, by using the menu below.
- 1 Pocket Knife Buyer’s Guide:
- 2 Best Modern Folding Pocket Knives: Our Picks for 2020
- 2.1 1. Kershaw Blur Folding Knife:
- 2.2 2. Benchmade 940 Osborne Design Knife:
- 2.3 3. Spyderco Endura 4:
- 2.4 4. Benchmade Super Steel Barrage:
- 2.5 5. Benchmade Griptilian 551-1:
- 2.6 6. Spyderco Delica Plain Edge:
- 2.7 7. SOG Flash II Knife:
- 2.8 8. Spyderco Tenacious G10 Combo:
- 2.9 9. Spyderco Pacific Salt Knife:
- 2.10 10. Ontario RAT 1:
- 2.11 11. Spyderco Cara Cara 2:
- 2.12 12. Benchmade Mini Griptilian:
- 2.13 13. Spyderco Paramilitary 2:
- 2.14 14. Smith & Wesson Border Guard:
- 3 Best Traditional Pocket Knife Picks:
- 3.1 1. Buck Knives 110 Hunter Folding Knife:
- 3.2 2. Buck Knives 112BRS Ranger Folding Knife:
- 3.3 3. Buck Knives 505RWS Knight:
- 3.4 4. Case Cutlery Lockback Red Bone:
- 3.5 5. WR Case & Sons Stainless Trappper:
- 3.6 6. Buck Knives 301 Three Blade Folding Knife (Stockman Design):
- 3.7 7. Case Cutlery Medium Pocket Knife (Stockman Design):
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions:
- 4.0.1 What is the top brand of pocket knife?
- 4.0.2 What’s the best way to clean a pocket knife?
- 4.0.3 Is it legal to carry a pocket knife?
- 4.0.4 How do I sharpen a pocket knife?
- 4.0.5 How can you improve a cheap pocket knife?
- 4.0.6 What’s the best “outdoorsy” folding pocket knife?
- 4.0.7 What’s the best EDC pocket knife that’s LIGHTWEIGHT?
- 4.0.8 What’s the best folding knife for a boy scout?
- 5 So What’s the Best Pocket Knife for the Money?
Pocket Knife Buyer’s Guide:
There are two schools of pocket knives (for the most part). Some people would argue that you have a smaller subset of pocket knives that are considered more military style and tactical in use. We stand by that most of the knives we’d recommend for military or tactical use should be fixed blade knives and not something that’s a basic EDC pocket knife. Bushcraft knives should be shorter in nature and also have a fixed blade.
Today’s knives for the most part fall into two buckets which are Modern Pocket Knives and Traditional Pocket knives. Let’s look at the basic differences and uses of each type in more detail below.
1. Traditional vs. Modern Folding Pocket Knife Patterns:
The Origins of the Traditional Pocket Knife Style: Unlike the modern crop of folding every day carry knives, many traditional patterns were specifically designed to meet the needs of people in specific professions. For instance, the Stockman pattern was originally developed for use by farmers, ranchers, and stockyard workers who used their pocket knives to trim hooves and spay and neuter livestock. The Pen Knife was originally developed for use by clerks, bankers, and layers to use when sharpening their quill pens. Traditionally styled folding knives are also a favorite of knife collectors.
Another classic patterns is the Barlow (which is available in different sizes) because it does an excellent job of filling the need for an all-purpose knife. Traditional designs would encompass all traditional folding knife patterns such as the iconic buck 110 Folding Hunter and the Buck 112 Ranger as well as all classic patterns such as the Barlow, the Stockman, the Sunfish, the Pen, ect. Schrade does an excellent job in the video describing some the basic traditional knife models in more detail.
There ere are six designs commonly used on traditional pocket knife patterns consisting of straight backs, clip points, drop points, spear points, sheep’s foot, spey, and Wharncliffe. They can be combined with numerous different handle patterns. A knife with a Clip Point, a Sheep’s Foot, and a Spey blade combined with a Serpentine handle design is always called a Stockman pattern. Choosing a traditional pattern is really a matter of personal preference depending on how you intend to use it.
The Origins of the Modern EDC/Tactical Pocket Knife Style: However, because so many of the jobs that once required a man to carry a “working knife” on a daily basis are no longer existent, the modern “everyday carry” knife has evolved from the traditional folding lockback to a much more tactical design. The two patterns are very distinct from one another when placed side by side.
The more modern knife patterns are extremely popular due to technological advances in modern day design and these newer modern designs typically surpass more traditional knife designs depending on the intended use of the knife. Your more modern looking knives typically stand up to abuse and serve really well in areas of labor that require a knife with more aggressive features. This just means that someone who installs carpet may be more apt to stick to a Spyderco than a traditional folding Buck Knives model.
Modern looking tactical folding knives came about in the 1990s as more aggressive looking knives became popular. We think these knives are a great option for someone that needs a good option for basic everyday carry, but we wouldn’t rely on them as a sole self defense knife. For that purpose, we’d rely on a full tang fixed blade knife due to the durability and the lack of a break point that a fixed blade knife has.
2. Finding the Optimal Blade Size:
Most modern folding knives are generally medium to large size, and traditional pocket knives are usually available in small, medium, and large sizes to meet various needs.
A “gentleman’s knife” is always small so that it will ride comfortably in a dress pants pocket and will be non-threatening to coworkers when you need to use it. Whereas, a working pocket knife is usually a large size knife so that the blades are easy to open and the handle fills your hand when you grasp it and thus, a medium sized knife is meant to be a compromise between small gentleman’s pocket knife and large working pocket knife.
Because most modern everyday carry folding knives feature pocket clips for vertical carry on the edge of a pocket, they do not require belt sheaths. Most traditional folding knives do require a belt sheath which some people like while others don’t.
3. Blade Design (Modern Everyday Carry, Traditional, etc.):
When choosing either a modern folding knife or a traditional folding knife pattern, the first step is to decide whether your main purpose for the knife is work or self defense since the two blade designs are very different from each other.
Modern designs usually feature either a clip point or a drop point blade design because they place the tip of the blade closer to the center of the blade where the cross section is more narrow. This makes the point sharper for easier piercing. It also notably limits the amount of sweep the blade has even if a deep belly is included.
Working knives are far more often used for cutting and slicing than piercing. They generally feature blade designs with extended cutting edges and a mild sweep to the belly specifically designed to maximize the length of the cutting edge. Blade designs with points that are located at or near the center line of the blade tend to be better suited for tactical use. Blade designs with the tip located well above the center line of the blade tend to be better suited for general purpose use.
When choosing a traditional pattern, you have the choice between two, three, and four different blades contained within the same handle and each blade can be of a different shape.
Both the clip point and the spear point designs are meant to be general purpose blade designs. The spey exhibits an extra deep belly for an extended cutting edge on the sweep which makes it good for slicing and whittling. Sheep’s Foot and Wharncliffe blade designs provide a straight edge all of the way to the tip and thus, they provide a short, highly aggressive, cutting edge.
The Pen blade on a Barlow or a Pen knife is perfect for removing staples and other small jobs. Many outdoorsmen favor the Muskrat pattern which features two large clip point blades or the Trapper pattern which has both a long clip point and a long spey blade. The Stockman makes the ultimate working knife pattern with its clip point, sheep’s foot, and spey blade.
4. The Different Types of Blade Steels:
When choosing either a modern every day carry knife or a traditional folding knife or modern pocket knife pattern, blade steel is something to consider. Blade Steels are first divided into two categories consisting of stainless steels and non-stainless, high carbon tool steels. Each type of steel has different properties.
High carbon tool steels are generally significantly tougher than stainless steels due their grain structure. They are generally not as wear resistant as stainless steels and they are slightly more prone to corrosion.
Stainless steels on the other hand are generally not as tough as high carbon tool steels and they are more inclined to break under duress. They are also significantly less prone to corrosion due to the inclusion of at least 12.5 percent Chromium and sometimes a little Nickel thrown in for good measure. Stainless blades are more difficult to sharpen than high carbon tool steels and they won’t take quite as fine an edge. They will however hold their edge longer than a high carbon steel of an equal Rockwell Hardness.
In fact, the Rockwell Hardness of the blade is another important consideration when choosing a knife. This is important because the softer a blade is, the less it holds an edge and it’s less likely to break. The harder a blade is, the better it will hold an edge but, the more inclined it will be to break.
Softer blades are easier to sharpen whereas, harder blades are more difficult to sharpen. Bladesmiths use something called the Rockwell Scale C to measure the hardness of knife blades. A tough knife blade would have a Rockwell Hardness of 50-53 HRC, while a hard knife blade would have a Rockwell Hardness of 58-62 HRC. Knife blades with a Rockwell Hardness of 54-57 are a good compromise between toughness and edge holding ability.
All modern every day carry knives and most traditional pattern folding knives are made from stainless steel. There are a few companies that still produce both types of pocket knives with blades made from high carbon tool steels.
The same is true for traditional pattern pocket knives and pocket knives with high carbon tool steel blades. They are shinny when the knife is first removed from the box. A couple of days of continuous carry in a pocket will cause the blades to develop a dark brown patina which actually helps to prevent corrosion. This is normal and not something to worry about.
5. Pocket Knife Handle Design:
When choosing a traditional pattern, there are numerous different handle patterns to choose from. There is the Swell End Jack, the Serpentine, the Peanut, the Sunfish, the Canoe, the Coke Bottle, ect.
In most cases, specific handle shapes are always paired with certain designs. When choosing a traditional design, you first choose the type and number of blades you want and simply accept the handle design that accompanies it. The Barlow with a Swell End Jack handle pattern and the Stockman with a Serpentine handle pattern are among the most popular designs.
Most modern designs are simpler and are made based on functionality and intended use, rather than sticking to a pattern that more traditional models have for years.
Traditional style handle scales range from many different types of synthetic materials such as Delrin, Mica Pearl, and Kirinite. There can also be many different types of natural materials such as exotic hardwoods, jigged bone, and Stag antler. Your choice should depend on your intended purpose for the knife.
For instance, if you are purchasing a working knife, you would probably want a tough material such as Delrin. If you are choosing a gentleman’s accessory, then you would want a decorative material such as Mother of Pearl or Abalone.
Best Modern Folding Pocket Knives: Our Picks for 2020
Because a full list of high quality pocket knives for the modern user is simply too extensive, we have instead hand picked for you 14 of the best EDC knife picks on the market today.
1. Kershaw Blur Folding Knife:
The Kershaw Blur Folding Knife might be the best pocket knife on our list so far, and also the best EDC knife for the money in our opinion. Kershaw is known for quality and sturdiness, but this knife is also very budget friendly, while not skimping on durability.
While Benchmade should be your go-to if you have the money, the Kershaw Blur, gives you a sleek and simple design as well as comfort and utility all in one package.
Specs for the Kershaw Blur:
• Overall Length: 7.875 Inches• Blade Length: 3.375• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade Material: 14C28N Stainless• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Aluminum• Weight: 3.9 oz.
Its practical design and additional safety measures make it a top pick for the cost. It features a closed length of 4 1/2 inches and a length of 3 3/8 inches. It has a thumb stud which helps assist in opening and closing the blade with one or both hands.
The blade made from 6061-T6 Anondized aluminum and comes with a speed safe opener for additional safety. This is important if you plan on keeping it in your pocket every day.
2. Benchmade 940 Osborne Design Knife:
The Benchmade 940 Osborne is the cream of the crop. In fact, we feature this knife in a detailed breakdown right here. Benchmade has made it’s mark by having some of the top quality pocket knives on the market and the 940 Osborne is no different. While price is always a factor, equally important is the quality of the knife.
Specs for the Benchmade 940:
• Overall Length: 7.87 Inches• Blade Length: 3.4 Inches• Blade Type: Reverse Tanto• Blade Material: S30V Stainless• Rockwell Hardness: 58-60 HRC• Handle Material: G-10• Weight: 2.65 oz.
The 940 is by far one of the higher quality knives on our list, but it comes with a higher price tag as a result. It’s a premium folder that comes equipped with a pocket clip on one side, making it ideal for everyday carry.
It has a 3.4 inch stainless steel blade with an ambidextrous thumb stud which makes this a great option if you are a lefty. When extended the knife measures 7.87 inches from top to bottom.
3. Spyderco Endura 4:
Like the Tenacious Combo Edge, the Endura 4 has a serrated edge blade and it’s made from VG-10 high carbon steel. The blade itself is titanium carbonitride coated to help prevent against rust.
Specs for the Spyderco Endura 4:
• Overall Length: 8.75 Inches• Blade Length: 3.75 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade material: VG-10 Stainless• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Fiber Reinforced Nylon• Weight: 3.67 oz.
It has a lock on the rear side of the blade to ensure it doesn’t open easily and when completely open, the knife locks. This helps prevent unintended closure. It comes with a clip on the handle to make it easy to attach to your belt and the handle is also textured for optimal grip.
It’s also equipped with pocket clip on the handle, making it a great option for anyone that’s looking for a decent EDC option.
4. Benchmade Super Steel Barrage:
The 940 Osborne isn’t the only top tier knife that Benchmade is responsible for making. The Super Steel Barrage is extremely popular with the high-end knife owning crowd.
Specs for The Benchmade Super Steel Barrage:
• Overall length: 8.35 Inches• Blade Length: 3.6 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade Material: 154 CM• Rockwell Hardness: 58-61 HRC• Handle Material: G-10/Aluminum• Weight: 4.94 oz.
It’s a little pricey, but for the quality you expect from Benchmade, it’s well worth the cost. It’s made of M390 “super steel” and has a locking blade to help ensure that it won’t pop open at an unexpected time. It has an ambidextrous thumb stud that will help with opening and closing the knife with one or both hands.
Again, the price tag is a little steeper, but when it comes to knife quality, you get what you pay for.
5. Benchmade Griptilian 551-1:
While the Benchmade Griptilian 551 doesn’t have quite the same accolades as the 940 Osborne or the Super Steel Barrage, It’s still quite popular with outdoor enthusiasts due to the solid construction and overall length of the blade.
Specs on the Benchmade 551:
• Overall Length: 8.07 Inches• Blade Length: 3.45 Inches• Blade Type: Modified Clip Point• Blade material: CPM-20CV Steel• Rockwell Hardness: 58-61 HRC• Handle Material: Unknown• Weight: 4.17 oz.
The blade is slightly longer than some of the others on this list, coming in at 3.45 inches. When the knife is open, the entire knife is a total of 8.8 inches in length. It’s made from CPM-20CV Steel and has a fixed point blade. It is also ambidextrous.
6. Spyderco Delica Plain Edge:
The Spyderco Delica makes our list as it’s one of Spyderco’s better selling models. It has a 4 way clip with a screw together construction making it easy to take apart and clean up when needed.
Specs for the Spyderco Delica:
• Overall Length: 7.125 Inches• Blade Length: 2.875 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade material: VG-10• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Fiber Reinforced Nylon• Weight: 2.5 oz.
It has a textured handle making it easy to grip and it has an enlarged opening hole making it easy to pull it completely out and extend. It has a 2.875 inch VG-10 Steel Blade and measures 7.125 inches when fully opened. It’s a great value and won’t break the bank, making it a great choice for budget conscious shoppers.
7. SOG Flash II Knife:
While SOG is notorius for their survival knives, they have a good reputation as an every day carrier as well.
Specs on the SOG Flash II:
• Overall Length: 9 Inches• Blade Length: 3.5 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade Material: AUS-8• Rockwell Hardness: 57-58 HRC• Handle Material: Glass Reinforced Nylon• Weight: 3.10 oz.
The Flash II comes equipped with a 3 1/2 inch blade and the SOG technology provides an easy solution to open the blade with one hand.
The handle is made of nylon that’s been glass reinforced and the black finish almost looks like a little like a carbon fiber material. The SOG flash is a solid everyday carry knife.
8. Spyderco Tenacious G10 Combo:
The Spyderco Tenacious Combo is slightly different than many of the other models on this list. It has screw together construction and an easy opening hole to make it easily accessible when it comes to taking it apart and cleaning it.
Specs on the Spyderco Tenacious G10 Combo:
• Overall Length: 7.76 Inches• Blade Length: 3.39 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade material: 8Cr13MoV• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: G-10• Weight: 4.1 oz.
The biggest difference is the serrated edge at the base of blade which makes this blade ideal for cutting small branches in the forest or while hiking in the brush. The blade is 3 5/16 long and is a Flat Ground Blade.
The Spyderco Tenacious Combo edge also comes equipped with a pocket clip on the back, making it convenient if you need the flexibility of carrying it openly for any range of tasks. The Tenacious Combination Edge is a great pickup for anyone on a budget looking for the quality that you’d expect from Spyderco.
9. Spyderco Pacific Salt Knife:
The Pacific Salt Knife is a mid sized folding knife which offers a serrated edge along the entire length of the blade. The blade itself is 3.8 inches and is made of H-1 steel.
Specs on the Pacific Salt Knife:
• Overall Length: 8.687 Inches• Blade Length: 3.812 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade material: H-1• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: G-10• Weight: 3 oz.
When the blade is fully open it is 8.7 inches in total length. Spyderco has some amazing knifes on this list, but this one breaks the top 20 due to the fact that it’s thinner than most and can be very comfortable as an EDC knife. It’s more modern looking, which Spyderco is known for.
10. Ontario RAT 1:
The Ontario Knife RAT-1 is one of Ontario’s most popular knives. Ontario has been manufacturing knives for quite some time and the RAT 1 is an excellent knife for the fact it’s a solid knife at a decent price point. If you are looking for something that’s easy on your wallet and you aren’t afraid to bang around, this is a great pick.
Ontario Knife & Tool Rat 1 Specs:
• Overall length: 8.5 Inches• Blade Length: 3.5 Inches• Blade Type: Clip Point• Blade material: AUS-8• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material:Nylon• Weight: 5 oz.
This flat grind blade is manufactured with AUS-8 steel, which is a quality knife steel. While it’s not going to hold up to the likes of S30V, AUS-8 is generally durable and fairly easy to sharpen. It also holds its edge consistently, but you may find yourself needing to sharpen it more frequently compared to other steels.
At 4.5 inches when closed, and only 4.5 ounces in weight, the RAT-1 makes a for a decent companion without taking up too much space. The lanyard hole is a nice touch if you need to carry it around your neck. Ontario produces several knives for the US government and the US military, so you’ll be in good company with the RAT-1 and at a reasonable price point.
11. Spyderco Cara Cara 2:
The Cara Cara 2 is a great pick for anyone looking for a super light weight carry option. It’s made with 8Cr13MoV steel, which is a Chinese steel. It’s a higher quality Chinese steel that’s easy to sharpen and holds an edge well.
Spyderco Cara Cara 2:
• Overall length: 8.5 Inches• Blade Length: 3.75 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade material: 8Cr13MoV• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Stainless Steel• Weight: 5.6 oz.
The Cara Cara 2 is another great option for people on a budget. It’s similar in both look and feel to the RAT I from Ontario. It carries with it some of Spyderco’s signature traits, which includes the cut away hole at the base of the blade itself, making it easy to open and close the knife.
The blade opens and closes smoothly, and the flat ground blade cuts through most daily tasks with ease. It has a pocket clip and a lanyard hole, giving you plenty of different options for choice of carry style.
Normally Spyderco’s offerings are significantly costlier, but that’s usually because they are made with American made steel and some are produced in the United States. This lower cost offering is made overseas, allowing Spyderco fans to enjoy their quality without having to break the bank to do so.
12. Benchmade Mini Griptilian:
If you are looking for quality in a small package, the Mini-Griptilian is tough to beat. We are Benchmade fans here at Wildernes Today, and this particular knife has the quality that you’d expect and it doesn’t wreck your wallet.
Benchmade Mini Griptilian Specs:
• Overall length: 6.78 Inches• Blade Length: 2.91 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade material: 154CM• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Glass Filled Nylon• Weight: 2.81 oz.
The 940 is our favorite knife by Benchmade. The Mini-Griptilian is close. It’s comfortable to hold and does the job when you need a smaller knife to complete certain tasks. It’s manufactured with 154CM Steel, which is an American made steel that stays extremely sharp and holds an edge very well.
It’s also easy to open and close with just one hand. Be careful if you do this though, as the blade is extremely sharp, right out of the box. The blade does not have a spring assist opening, but the blade locks firmly in place.
As with the 940, it comes equipped with the AXIS lock technology, which firmly locks the blade in place. As always, you can expect a lifetime warranty. The handle is ergonomically as comfortable as just about any knife on this list, and at 2.81 ounces, it’s extremely light to carry around. If you are looking to get into a Benchmade product without spending a ton, this knife will allow you to jump in full force.
13. Spyderco Paramilitary 2:
The Spyderco Paramilitary 2 is a fantastic knife that’s made in the United States. Spyderco is another one of our favorite manufacturers, and the ParaMilitary 2 is a knife that can be used for just about anything you can throw at it.
Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Specs:
• Overall length: 8.28 Inches• Blade Length: 3.44 Inches• Blade Type: Clip Point• Blade material: CPM-S30V• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material:G10• Weight: 4.8 oz.
The ParaMilitary 2 is on the pricey side because it’s made with CPM-S30V steel. This is one of the most expensive types of steel that a knife can be made with. This type of steel sharpens easily but holds an edge for an extremely long time. It’s also one of the toughest steels to break and cuts through practically anything.
The G10 Hadle on the Paramilitary 2 is extremely comfortable, making it ergonomically pleasing for even the most picky people (like our editorial staff). The blade locks in place and pivot bushing system makes the knife extremely easy to open and close. There’s no thumb assist, but you get the signature hole in the blade that Spyderco is famous for, so opening with one hand is definitely do-able.
The Paramilitary 2 is a tough knife to beat if you are looking for a knife with high quality steel at a reasonable price point.
14. Smith & Wesson Border Guard:
If you are looking for a decently priced heavy-duty EDC knife, the Smith & Wesson Border Guard is a workhorse that won’t break the bank.
Smith & Wesson Border Guard Specs:
• Overall length: 8.25 Inches• Blade Length: 3.49 Inches• Blade Type: Clip Point• Blade material: 7Cr17MoV Black Oxide HC Stainless Steel • Rockwell Hardness: N/A• Handle Material: Black aluminum • Weight: 5.92 oz.
It comes with a handy seat belt cutter on one side and a ceramic window breaker on the bottom which you can use to smash windows or other fragile things in an emergency situation like a car wreck.
The only major downside is that the Border Guard is not a spring action knife. It is thumb-stud activated and needs a bit of pressure to open unless you loosen up the screws. This means that this knife is not that great for self-defense. However, if you are concealed carry guy that won’t be an issue (you know what they say about knives and gunfights).
The Border Guard’s tanto blade is made of heavy gauge steel and comes sharp out of the box but not scary sharp. The grip has a very nice feel to it, but it is very ergonomic, which shows that this knife means business. This is a solid but fairly large knife ideal for large hands. It makes a great EDC at home and work.
The Smith & Wesson Border Guard is an impressive but heavy-duty EDC knife with a cool vibe that can take a beating. Plus, for the current retail price ($19,99 on Cabela’s), this hefty folder is an absolute steal.
Best Traditional Pocket Knife Picks:
Since we first broke down some of the more modern pocket knives in 2020, next we will cover our favorite traditional models.
Our modern models always seem to have a place in just about everyone’s lineup due to their modern styling and technological advancements.
It’s worth noting that we feel that Buck Knives dominates the traditional space. There’s always a place in the lineup for some of the more traditional looking pocket knives which we will jump into below.
1. Buck Knives 110 Hunter Folding Knife:
Buck Knives has been around a very long time. They manufacture many different types of knives and the 110 Hunter folding knife is one of their most popular EDC knives in this price range
Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter Specifications:
• Overall length: 8.5 Inches• Blade Length: 3.75 Inches• Blade Type: Clip Point• Blade Material: 420HC• Rockwell Hardness: 58 HRC• Handle Material: Rosewood/Brass• Weight: 7.5 oz.
The 110 Hunter is one of the most popular traditional pocket knives in production. It may not be as “stylish” as some of the newer production models, but it’s tried, tested and true and has been around for a long time.
Popular among many outdoor enthusiasts and weekend campers, the Buck 110 has steadily morphed into a classic wilderness knife (one of our editors believes that it is the best pocket knife of all times although severely underrated). It is the right pick if you are longing to re-live your outdoor adventures you had as a kid, just in an adult sized version.
Plus, this knife will exceed all your expectations when it comes to the quality of its build and materials. We couldn’t believe our own that at this price point, an American EDC classic would not skimp on quality. Everything about the 110 Hunter looks and feel premium, from handle and blade to overall finish and fit. And this hasn’t changed for multiple generations so far.
The blade is a 3 3/4 inches 420HC steel clip blade (420HC is very easy to get scary sharp and it is the perfect choice for a knife in this category). The total length is 8.5 inches, making it easy to carry, and the blade length is 3.75 inches which makes it productive for most daily tasks. Buck have added their trademark deep hollow grind to this knife’s blade to achieve an extra level of cutting edge sharpness.
The 110 Hunter also comes equipped with a leather sheath, is sharp right out of the box, and has a lifetime warranty. Plus, Buck Knives’ after sales services is hard to match these days.
2. Buck Knives 112BRS Ranger Folding Knife:
Another stalwart for Buck Knives, the 112BRS Ranger is one of the top traditional pocket folding knives on the more compact side. With .75 inches less than the 110 Folding Hunter, the Ranger is the ideal pickup for someone that wants the quality that Buck provides but still sticking on the smaller side of the knife spectrum.
Buck Knives 112BRS Lockback Ranger Specs:
• Overall length: 7.75 Inches• Blade Length: 3 Inches• Blade Type: Clip Point• Blade Material: 420HC• Rockwell Hardness: 58 HRC• Handle Material: Rosewood/Brass• Weight: 5.6 oz.
If you are trying to limit the size of the knife you are carrying for everyday activities, the Ranger fits the bill. It’s one of the smaller knives on the list and quality wise, there’s just nothing quite like owning a buck knife. This is a perfect knife for anyone with slightly smaller hands, or someone that just might want something smaller than the 110, without losing any of the reliability.
The blade is a 3 inch 420HC steel clip blade. You’ll also get a leather sheath with just like its big brother, the 110. It’s another added perk for a folding knife that’s a little more budget friendly. If you are looking for a smaller knife, the Ranger is a fantastic choice for a compact model. Here’s a side-by-side size comparison of the two EDC knives.
3. Buck Knives 505RWS Knight:
Small and compact, the Buck Knight is a great knife in a smaller stature. It’s perfect for carrying everyday around your house or cabin for basic uses. As typical, the Buck warranty is hard to beat and the Knight does a great job of keeping cost in check while not sacrificing the quality that Buck is known for. Keep in mind, this knife is a small knife and will fit in the palm of your hand.
Buck Knight 505RWS Specifications:
• Overall length: 4.5 Inches• Blade Length: 1.85 Inches• Blade Type: Clip Point• Blade material: 420HC• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Rosewood/Brass• Weight: 7.5 oz.
If you are looking for a quality knife that comes in a small package, the Knight is sure to get the job done. It makes for a great keychain knife or one for the 5th pocket of your jeans as you stroll around the house. You can see how small it is just by looking at the size in the palm of our editor’s hand.
For the small size, the Knight gives you quality in a very small package. You also get the Buck warranty and piece of mind that comes with it. This is a great knife for any Boy Scout or younger person just getting into enjoying life outdoors. It’s also great for any small tasks around the house and is the perfect size to take up almost no space if you are a minimalist.
4. Case Cutlery Lockback Red Bone:
The Case cutlery Red Bone is a fine choice for someone looking for a US made lifetime warrantied knife. The Old Red Bone Lockback is a classic knife offering from Case. The quality is on par with Buck and this is another knife that will last you a lifetime. This is a smaller knife that will fit in the palm of your hand and is on the same playing field as the Buck Knight. Case has a long tradition of making quality knives, and this is no different.
Case Pocket Worn Lockback Specs:
• Overall length: 5.5 Inches• Blade Length: 2.75 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade material: Surgical Stainless• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Rosewood/Brass• Weight: 1.9 oz.
Overall, the Case Lockback is a good option for anyone looking for a companion on their next outdoor tent camping or hunting trip. Case hangs in there with Buck from a quality perspective and case specifically takes extra steps to break in their knives to make them feel a little more “worn.”
If you are considering the Knight from Buck, the Lockback Red bone should be one of the knives in your list of considerations. Like the Buck Knight, this is a smaller choice as you can see by the size of it in our editor’s hand. It’s another quality choice to pick from if you are looking for something that’s good for a first-time knife owner, or you just want something that looks extremely old school and very traditional.
5. WR Case & Sons Stainless Trappper:
Smaller than the Traditional trapper, this Case model has a 3.25 inch blade bringing the overall length of the knife when fully extended to just over 7.3 inches. This trapper knife is just as good as the Bone handled version, but it’s cheaper due to the synthetic handles versus the bone handled trapper listed above.
Case Cutlery Synthetic Handle Trapper Specs:
• Overall length: 7.25 Inches• Blade Length: 3.25 Inches• Blade Type: Drop Point• Blade material: Chrome Vandium• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Synthetic• Weight: 4.8 oz.
The Case synthetic handled trapper does what it’s meant to do and does it on a pretty decent budget. As with all Case knives, it’s manufactured in the USA. The trapper blade is one of the oldest knife designs out there and it’s one that you can’t go wrong with. If you are considering a trapper knife and want to save a few dollars to go without a real bone handle, then this should be at the top of your list.
Trappers are a common type of popular knife and a lot of cutlers mass produce them because of their popularity. This knife is a true trapper as it has both a clip and spey blades and nothing else. Case stays true to the original model and does so with an excellent design and bone finished handle.
6. Buck Knives 301 Three Blade Folding Knife (Stockman Design):
As we jump into Stockman territory, the Buck Knives 301 Stockman is our top selection for the money. It’s elegant, classic and has the quality that you’d anticipate from a Buck product. This is also Buck’s largest traditional folding multi-purpose knife that they offer.
Buck Knives Stockman Specs:
• Overall length: 6.5 Inches• Blade Length: 2.75 Inches• Blade Type: Clip Point• Blade material: 420HC• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Rosewood/Brass• Weight: 2.9 oz.
The 301 Stockman comes equipped with three blades. It has a clip point, spey and sheepsfoot blade. It’s made from the standard Buck 420HC Steel which holds an edge very well on top of being extremely corrosion-resistant. It’s a perfect knife for just about everything you can throw at it.
It’s perfect for skinning, pruning, whittling and just about anything else you can think of in a traditional every day carry pocket knife.
7. Case Cutlery Medium Pocket Knife (Stockman Design):
Stockman again makes the list for a quality knife design in the Stockman category. It has 3 blades, the standard clip point, spey and sheepsfoot that all Stockmans carry. It has an Amber Bone handle which gives it a nice vintage look while remaining durable.
Case Cutlery Medium Stockman Specs:
• Overall length: 6.5 Inches• Blade Length: 3 Inches• Blade Type: Clip Point• Blade material: Surgical Steel• Rockwell Hardness: Unknown• Handle Material: Amber Bone• Weight: 7.5 oz.
Like the trappers that Case does a great job with, this Stockman is a fine offering. They do a great job of serving up a Stockman in a more compact version. This knife is an ideal size for daily carry at right around 6.5 inches, similar to the Buck Stockman. The bone handle is a nice touch that offers the knife a vintage feel and like their other knives, this Case model is also made in the USA.
This Stockman is ideal for hunting, fishing, hiking, or anything you need to use it for as an every day knife around the house or cabin.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the top brand of pocket knife?
This is somewhat subjective, and depends on what your needs are. There are many great brands, but the ones that stand out are Benchmade, Spyderco and Kershaw for modern designs. If you are looking for a traditional design, Buck or Case Cutlery are hard to beat.
What’s the best way to clean a pocket knife?
There are many ways you can clean a folding knife, but all of them will require some type of debris and/or possibly rust removal as well as proper lubrication. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s an excellent article by Boys Life on how to properly clean and restore a dirty knife.
Is it legal to carry a pocket knife?
This is a complicated Answer. It truly depends on your state. Different states have different laws, and knife laws are generally governed at the state level because knives are tools. If you want to be safe with what you carry, find a knife that is more of a utility knife (think stockman or traditional design) and not something that looks like a tactical knife. Here’s a good article by Gizmodo that breaks down what most states restrict when it comes to knife types (switchblades aren’t popular).
How do I sharpen a pocket knife?
Sharpening any blade is pretty standard. While it may be different based on the size or length of the blade, you can follow the guidelines we have outlined here that will walk you through how to properly sharpen any knife. You’ll want to make sure you pick up a pocket knife sharpener that you can carry with you if you plan to spend time out in the wilderness and want to be able to sharpen your blade on the go.
How can you improve a cheap pocket knife?
Rather than improving something that was low cost to begin with, we recommend that you save your money and purchase something that will last a long time. Some of the editors on staff at Wilderness Today have had the same knife for 10+ years because they spent a little more on a premium brand/model.
What’s the best “outdoorsy” folding pocket knife?
This is subjective, but really any knife can function in the outdoors. If you are looking for something that you can carry with you while you camp, just make sure you get something with a pocket clip so it doesn’t fall out while you are managing tasks around your campsite.
What’s the best EDC pocket knife that’s LIGHTWEIGHT?
This is relative to both the size and materials the knife is made of. Typically speaking, handles made from some type of carbon or high grade plastic will be lighter than handles made from bone. If you want something that’s extremely light weight, look for a smaller knife that can fit in the palm of your hand.
What’s the best folding knife for a boy scout?
Typically boy scouts will use more traditionally designed knives. You’ll want to look at a stockman model that has multiple uses. Swiss army knives are also good for boy scouts because of the multiple utility tools they carry.
So What’s the Best Pocket Knife for the Money?
Let’s start off by saying that any knife on this list should be completely sufficient for any task you throw at it. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a modern every day carrier that looks more tactical in nature, or are just looking for a traditional Stockman. All the knives on this list are solid choices and will function well for whatever your needs are.
It’s safe to say that after all of this we’ve come up with a few of our favorites which we will list below in order of styles:
Modern EDC Knife Choices:
Top Modern Folding Knife Choice: Kershaw Ken Onion Blur
Top Choice if You have a healthy Budget: Benchmade 940 Osborne
Traditional Pocket Knife Choices:
Top Traditional Lockback: Buck Folding Hunter Knife
Top Stockman: Buck 301 Stockman
As you can see, when choosing a pocket knife, there many different types to choose from and each one features a different number of blades with different blade designs combined with different handle patterns in different sizes.
Regardless of your intended purpose for the knife, there is undoubtedly a modern or traditional pocket knife pattern that will suit your every day carry needs.
My articles appear in Marketing Edge Magazine, on Gizmogrind, and with various Medium publications. But one thing hasn’t changed in all of my life: no matter where I was or what I was doing. I’ve always loved to be outdoors.
A man needs nothing more than a good flannel shirt, a well-worn pair of jeans, and comfortable hiking boots. I don’t go for all the fancy luxury stuff. Suits are uncomfortable and shaving sucks.