Multi-purpose knife for defense and everyday use


February 16, 2008, 04:10 PM
I know very little about knives. I don't even know which blade length is minimum for defense use. Please answer that inquiry.

I'm looking for a multi-purpose knife. First priority is for defense, second for everyday use. It's got to be a good defensive 'cutter' because I'm not all that strong, also.

I'm looking for relatively inexpensive (less than $50.00) single-bladed folding knife. I guess that I like a knife similar to the S&W (below) -I guess one would call it a 'locking' knife?

Any recommendations?

I live in California yet don't know what max carry concealed length of blade might be.

I do own a S&W Extreme Ops knife-blade is about 2" or thereabouts, weight is 3.5 oz. I don't think anything more than 5 oz. would be practicable. No martial arts or defensive use training of any kind.

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February 16, 2008, 04:43 PM

February 16, 2008, 05:01 PM
Funny post, but it would be nice if people would just be responsive to the OP inquiries. It's very frustrating.

I ain't gonna walk around with no darn cane all the time.

tmi-just try to answer my questions. I don't understand much of your abbreviations.

I want a knife of adequate 'stopping power' that can easily be carried in my right pocket, and is legal to carry in California.

The inquiry is about knives, that is all. GGGeeeeeesssshhhhh.... :banghead:

February 16, 2008, 05:37 PM
I was being dead serious in regard to knives used for defense and mindset and tactics instead of focus on a knife.
I was being dead serious on alternatives, and real deal proven suggestions.

No disrespect, still I will not assist you on this matter any further.

I have been there and done that.
You can PM Larry Ashcraft, hso, BullFrogKen, or Jeff White.
They will say "yes" as my situation means some things have to stay private.

That post I will delete.

Carry on...

February 16, 2008, 05:52 PM
Whatever... I appreciate the prior attempt at helping me out. I just felt tmi.
Sorry that I insulted you. Poor manners on my part.

February 16, 2008, 07:43 PM
Well, in order to help you, we're gonna need to know more.

I'm sure you have some idea what the local rules are for length and stuff, and it will help if you provide that cap.

Other thing is, as you may have guessed from reading previous threads about defensive knife stuff, fighting with a knife -- at all -- is a nasty messy business.

On the order of magnitude of "everybody's going to get hurt" messy.

I carry at least three knives at all times, and I wouldn't use any of them for defense unless all other options had unravelled and I knew I was going to get hurt either way.

There are plenty of medium-to-small heavy-duty knives suitable for everyday use that could also do defensive duty, but you have to understand that no matter what they look like, they're still just a tool, and defending with one is pressing a tool into service as a weapon.

If you were to carry a knife that's designed as an effective weapon, you'd be carrying a seven-inch fixed blade on your belt, and I'm pretty sure that's not what you have in mind.

Anything that folds and is small enough to be legal is going to be of the "tools" class, and using it defensively is gonna be right up there with using a screwdriver or pair of scissors defensively. Except that scissors and screwdrivers will probably be longer.

You state that you are untrained. That's a bummer.

Defense of any kind is mostly about mindset, then about technique and method, and finally the tool. Lacking the first two of those, recommending a tool for defense would, I fear, just encourage a set of conditions that cannot end well.

I would solicit advice from JShirley, hso, and others whose posts in this forum indicate they have some experience.

Otherwise, I would recommend finding some way to make a stick or baton part of your daily baggage. If you're a student, a two-foot metal ruler would not look out of place. If you have other circumstances that you can share, we may be able to be of better service.

I would be very reluctant to simply say, "hey, I have this cool knife that I bought and I like it a lot and it's pretty tough and it would make an okay weapon."

You have specified "defense" as a primary use. In direct contradiction to that, you have no training. That's a recipe for disaster.

Please, at the very least, give enough context for us to say something more intelligent than "you should buy what I bought."

February 16, 2008, 07:48 PM
Any opinions/thoughts on blade type? (Regular vs partially serrated)

Personally, i like partial serrations for sawing through cord, rope, etc. They're tough/impossible to sharpen then again, don't need to be THAT sharp to work.

I think the best knife for the money is going to be Benchmade Mini-Griptilian. 2.91" blade, varied blade shapes/configurations. Probably going to stress your cost limit. Can probably find one on evil-bay for 50-60. I went with a partially serrated tanto (seen here ( ). Little more expensive. People will debate the utility of the tanto. Some claim it's better for slashing/piercing while others will say the exact opposite. I like it for fine detail work. Haven't had to stick it in anybody yet so can't tell you from personal experience.

For a more cost effective knife, I like the CRKT M-16. they make smaller version with <3" blades. They started adding in an auto locking feature the last couple years that I despise. I have an older one with the optional "LAWKS" feature and I much prefer it. That being said, it doesn't hold an edge nearly as well as the 154CM blade on the Benchmade. That's why it's been relegated to a BOB.

I really don't know about california knife law. Michigan is actually pretty strict with 3" maximum which is why i chose the knives i did. Consult a lawyer or do some homework on the internet for more info.

Good luck!

Also, a knife is a bad choice for SD (IMO). Without a handgun as an option, i'd much prefer some good old fashioned OC/Pepper spray/foam. Much better for keeping an opponent at range and engaging multiple opponents. If you're going to rely on a knife for SD, I highly recommend pursuing some martial arts training to maximize its potential.

February 16, 2008, 09:41 PM
Actually, A good tool for self defense is a rock. Carrying one of them around that's not too big for your pocket may be beneficial.
As for knives, the first and most important thing is knowing how to use one. I suggest taking some classes in hand-to-hand combat and blade technique. Secondly, know when to draw a weapon in a fight. Introducing a weapon in a fight makes weapons, including your own available. If you are going to attack someone in self-defense, I would consider starting with the rock, maybe kicking them in the legs and then bring the knife out.
Finally, I would look for something of maybe 5/32 thick and 4-5 inches long. I think Buck makes a couple nice folders that will probably suit you. Kershaw also makes some good blades. If you want a good, long-lasting blade, you should get a custom made knife. You can probably pick up a decent custom made folder for $150-$200 with enough shopping. In the world of custom blades, you can get single bevel knives made of stuff like O-1 and S-7 which are significantly sharper then any factory folder you'll find and hold an edge better then most of them, not to mention better quality control in the mechanics and handling.

Don Gwinn
February 16, 2008, 11:24 PM
You have to be in the right mood and willing to do the work to sift through SM's posts to find the diamonds in there. He's not trying to be rude; that's just the way he writes.

If you're determined to use a knife for self-defense, then it needs to be big enough, sharp enough, strong enough and carried enough. You already have some idea of these requirements.

1. Big enough: Opinions will vary. Almost no one on any internet forum has actual experience drawing blood intentionally with a knife, so you'll get more opinions than solid "This worked for me" information. Personally, I carry anything from a 3.5" to a 5.5" blade. I like my megafolder, but I carry the flattest one I've found available and it's still bigger than many people would want to carry every day. Probably not legal in California, either.
Someone will inevitably mention the minimum length needed to stab vital organs. Maybe that's important to you, but I see a defensive knife as a way to cut my way loose. I don't really mind a shorter blade for that reason as long as it's sharp.

2. Strong enough: This is where the S&W knives might let you down. I believe they're still made by Taylor Cutlery, and not to the highest quality standards. IF you are certain you want a folder, I'd look at Benchmade and Spyderco first. If neither has something you like, you should by then have a pretty specific knife in mind and you can find it elsewhere. Right now I rotate between a Camillus (that's the megafolder, and unfortunately they're out of business) a Spyderco, a Benchmade and a Kershaw on a daily basis. But I'm a knife weirdo and all mine get used for daily cutting; if you're serious about using your knife as a dedicated weapon you're better off learning one model and using just that one.

3. Sharp enough: The brands I've recommended all come shaving-sharp out of the box. After that, it's up to you. If you're going to be using your knife for your daily chores (envelopes, string, apples, etc.) then you'll need to touch it up often to keep it sharp. It needs to be awfully sharp in order to, for example, be ready to slash through clothing to damage the arm that's holding you. Again, if you're one of those guys who's carrying the knife solely as a weapon, you won't really care whether it holds an edge or not, since you won't dull it by using it to cut open boxes and envelopes and apples.

4. Carried enough: It does have to be comfortable and small enough that you'll carry the thing. For that purpose it's best if you can visit a cutlery shop. I don't know of one in California, but I'll bet there are some around. That will let you handle a lot of knives and see how they carry in the pocket.

5. California has weird rules about concealment and blade length. Check this out:
That's a link to Bernard Levine's website. The blurb linked is the text of California's knife statute, but click over the main site for lots more good stuff about knives and the law. Then you'll know, and knowing is half the battle.

Don Gwinn
February 16, 2008, 11:37 PM
One last thing: if you don't have any training, and you don't do any training, you'll probably either not deploy the knife in the event, or find a way to cut yourself. Knives are dangerous but they're not magical. You don't have to become Jet Li, you just have to have some practice under your belt. Benchmade and Spyderco both make good trainers to match some of their models; they make your life a lot easier. With the trainer you'll see how hard it really is to deploy and use a folding knife while on your back getting punched in the face. It's not as easy as it looks.

February 17, 2008, 12:06 AM
never mind

Pax Jordana
February 17, 2008, 12:18 AM
Hey Don, I'll go there.

Just a few things I'd want to add:

Fairbairn lists the brachial and radial arteries (those of the arm, that's the part you're most likely to be cutting for any sort of knife-assisted exits) as being located one-half and one-quarter inches below the skin's surface, respectively. So yes, your blade is long enough. Shorter blades were used, or at least issued, to world-war-whatever-era spy types to aid in some last-ditch escape attempt: Cutting the forehead will make blood run into the eyes.

Second, unless you're gonna sharpen your one knife often and well, carry one for people and another for boxes and apples and such.

Third, the preceding information comes entirely from my reading of books.

Lastly, I'd recommend the Kershaw Blur because it looks cool, cuts well, comes with a great factory edge, and will make you feel better until you get some training and hear (and see, in practice, with markers or rubber knives) exactly how terrible a knife fight can be. Alternatives to the Blur could include a rosary, bumper stickers that say "NO FEAR" or all four (buy the boxed set when it comes out) Rambo movies.

February 17, 2008, 03:40 PM
I suggest you carry a full 16 or 20 oz water bottle. This will be legal everywhere except airplanes, should be held in your hands (no need to draw), and can knock an attacker unconscious.

I'm a big fan of Spyderco knives, so for your tool needs, I suggest a Dragonfly ( Delica.

Todd A
February 17, 2008, 04:40 PM
My 2 cents....Two that I own. Top is a Kershaw Leek bottom is a Spyderco Native. Both are readily available at most Wally Worlds,are under $50 and have a blade length of only 3 inches. The Leek is assisted opening,don't know if that matters in CA.

P.S a Mini Maglite isn't a bad idea also. It will be in my hand before either of the knives.

Don Gwinn
February 17, 2008, 04:52 PM
Man, folks, have we decided knives are just no good for defense? I didn't get the memo. I know we're all tired of the endless tactical-this and tactical-that and covert deanimation blood grooves, but a sharp knife has served in good stead for a lot of people for a lot of centuries.

A water bottle is better than an empty hand, I guess, but I wouldn't trade it for a simple little Native like the one pictured above.

February 17, 2008, 05:34 PM
I carry a CRKT M16-13Z but its just for utility use or maybe, last resort self defense. I like the LAWKS feature.

February 17, 2008, 08:19 PM

I have killed stuff with knives. Big things.

That said, I'll take a full water bottle over a small folder for defense, any day. I guarantee I can knock anyone out with a single good hit from that water bottle. Hard to be as instantly effective with a small knife.


February 17, 2008, 09:43 PM
The little I know about knife fighting is from West Side Story and Rumblefish, but a good knife is about the most useful thing a human being can carry. Training or not. Track down your local laws and get a Benchmade Griptilian that's not too long.

Water bottles, rocks, socks full of quarters, pepper spray, stout rods of wood...all can be useful, but can't this original poster carry a nice little knife too?

February 18, 2008, 03:20 PM
Certainly he can- it's just a bad idea to have a mindset that the primary function of a small blade is defense. It's an even worse idea with absolutely no training.

People need tools, and knives are tools. As weapons, they are most effective when used offensively, before the knifed is even aware they're under attack. This is not the typical defensive M.O.


February 18, 2008, 06:17 PM
I like almost anything that says "Benchmade" "Spyderco" or "Emerson".

My current favorite is an Emerson Super CQC-7. I now own 4 Emersons, the Super '7 is my favorite. I also love my Commander and Karambit though. They're all great knives.

Instead of messing with a wave, try a spyderco or benchmade and learn what you want.

February 19, 2008, 01:25 AM
Spyderco Native was what I carried for a long time. Lost it. I haven't replaced it yet because there are so many other knives laying around the house. Decided to carry a few different ones and see how they performed for everyday use. So far my favorite is the CRKT M16 I carried in Iraq. Glad I rediscovered that knife, but I would trade it for another Spyderco in a hurry.

Get something small enough that you will carry it everywhere, but big enough to instill some degree of confidence. A 2.5-3 inch blade will be fine for the job. Avoid trouble like the plague. If it finds you, slash your way loose and run like hell.

February 19, 2008, 11:41 AM
Certainly he can- it's just a bad idea to have a mindset that the primary function of a small blade is defense. It's an even worse idea with absolutely no training.

People need tools, and knives are tools. As weapons, they are most effective when used offensively, before the knifed is even aware they're under attack. This is not the typical defensive M.O

Last summer when I drove cross-country, I was headed to Nantucket. No guns unless I wanted to take a chance on a VERY long vacation indeed somewhere in Massachusetts, and prison orange isn't my color, so my guns were "babysat" by a THR mod. I needed other tools.

I exchanged some emails with hso and at his recommendation got a nice little Benchmade. I can open it one handed (with some difficulty, but that's because I'm uncoordinated, not because the knife is difficult, lol). He stressed at the time, and again later that summer when we met and did some practice work, that this is a *last ditch tool*. It's a tool, it's good to have, but if it gets bad enough that that is your only self defense option, you are in deep doo doo.

Still, if I'm IN that deep doo doo, I want to have that Benchmade there with me.

Mine cost about $50 at Gander Mountain. The grip is bumpy synthetic material, so if my hand is wet with sweat and/or blood, I can still grip it well. It is large enough to fit my hand (large hands for a woman) but small enough to disappear in a pocket.

Oh, and if you're going to use it to open packages and snick string, and other knifely activities, keep in mind that you need to resharpen it if you also want it to be a self defense option. Hso recommended that I never use it for anything else, but lately I've just needed it for other stuff and it was there..... So now I'm looking for a GOOD whetstone to keep it up with.

HTH. Benchmades are real nice and won't break the bank.


February 19, 2008, 02:02 PM

Sharpening skill is invaluable, but it's easier to buy another knife for SD (and gives you the excuse to get another knife;) to carry.

The OP asked a question based on a lack of information which lead to a misunderstanding of the relative benefits of the knife as a tool for self defense.

I'm a knife junkie. I got it bad. I collect them and trade them and train with them as weapons. I'd still take a stout cane or a take apart pool cue over a knife most any day. I'd have to spend a little time working with John's water bottle suggestion, but I think I "see" how it would work as a sap/fist load and can appreciate it's potential.

California has the interesting legal perspective that sets a maximum legal length for fixed blade carry, but allows the carry of any blade length. Big folders are allowed. The old Camillus Maxx folders could be carried and they had 5 inch blades. :D

There is no magic blade length that is equivalent to the mythical one shot stop. We've gone round and round about instant kills with a blade and the facts are that it ain't easy unless your victim is nearly immobilized by wounds or surprise or restraint. Anything is possible with the human animal.

Knives are messy and require more training than you think to be very effective weapons because of the shocking durability of humans. Pump a guy with a blade and you may not hit anything that will kill them right away. Cut the carotid and jugular and he may fight on for long enough to take you with him. OR be may collapse in shock from either. Since knives have to destroy organ systems or cause enough bleeding to cause the opponent to pass out, you may have to work at creating enough damage. Ugly work.

On the other hand, a bludgeon can be much easier to learn to use and can keep an attacker at distance while possibly putting him down with one blow to the head.

Anyway, CA allows any blade length you want to carry in a folder, carry as big a folder in CA as you want/can, don't use it for anything else lest it be dull when you need it, practice drawing and deploying it because you won't have any time at all to figure it out when you're on the ground from being rushed by some BG and get some training so that you can put it to more efficient use.

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