5.11 Tactical Investigator Tactical Knife
It seems that everything used for duty or anything closely related to it has been going up in price by leaps and bounds. Those simple things like a knife or pocket tool are all rapidly approaching $200 for a "quality" one. That's starting to approach the level of a car payment or in the case of my first car almost its entire cost.
With that in mind I went out in search of knives and pocket tools that won't break the bank. The catch was they had to be good stuff that can hold up to the rigors of daily duty use. It took some searching and reading, but I managed to come up with cutlery and tools for duty that won't break the bank and won't break when cutting open a heavy-duty box.
After many trips around the Web, I found a dozen or so knives and tools that your financial manager will approve of.
One of the newest players in the duty knife market is 5.11 Tactical. Most of you know 5.11 for the pants of the same name. Now 5.11 has branched out into most all areas of duty gear, and the company's knives are as tough as their pants.
I chose to look at the Investigator Tactical Knife with a spear point. This knife is the least expensive of the 5.11 knives and gives you a good bang for the buck.
Checkered G10 grips provide for a good purchase on the knife. The blade itself is 154CM steel and uses a back lock so it will survive all but the worst abuse.
For a knife with a $79.99 price point, you wouldn't think you'd get options not found even on much more expensive knives. You can mount the clip for blade-up or -down carry, and you can mount the clip for left- or right-handed users. The Investigator even allows you to determine the blade-to-frame fit to adjust how easily the knife opens.
The most shocking name on this list may be Emerson Knives. I have several of Ernie's knives and most can't be had for less than $200. When I saw the Hard Wear line with a price of less than $100, I thought, cool, an Emerson the working stiff can afford.
Emerson's Hard Wear line is made by G.Sakai Co. to Emerson's standards and specifications. I like the blade style of the Endeavor, a modified drop point; this is a solid all around use blade for duty, hunting, or simply slicing an apple.
Emerson Knives Hard Wear Endeavor
The grip is black Zytel, a fiberglass-filled nylon with an aqua grip track. The blade is made from AUS8 steel. This combination makes the knife lightweight and durable, and the grip is solid even under water. Emerson's Hard Wear Endeavor should last you until retirement.
One of the companies known for innovation in knives is Kershaw. Over the years many of my buds have used various Kershaw blades for work or in the field. The Blackout is one of the many knives these folks have used.
Kershaw's Blackout uses Ken Onion's SpeedSafe (assisted opening) system, making it one of the fastest opening non-automatic knives around. With a flip of the thumb this Sandvik 13C26 stainless-steel blade is ready for use. Sandvik steel is very tough, holds a sharp edge, and is easy to sharpen.
The grip of the Blackout is made from Kershaw's Polyimide. This polymer is virtually indestructible and the checkering gives you a solid purchase. Kershaw has several other knives under $100, and they too will serve you for years.
Another knife manufacturer that offers you soup to nuts for knives is Spyderco. This company makes many quality knives priced less than $100.
The Delica is one of the original models of knives in the Spyderco line. I have used a Delica in one form or another for the last decade. It's a well trusted friend.
One reason I like Spyderco's Delica is its handy size of 7 1/8 inches overall with a 2 7/8-inch blade. I prefer the combination blade over the plain or SpyderEdge. The fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle is virtually indestructible. If the Delica isn't your style, fear not; Spyderco has something to fit your needs.
One of the biggest suppliers of duty gear is BlackHawk Products Group, which offers several knives for duty. One of my favorites is the Pointman. This is a spear point bladed knife made from black Teflon-coated AUS8A steel.
With such aggressively checkered G10 grips, I assure you if you can wrap your hand around it you won't lose the knife. This knife also gives you carry options for the clip: right- or lefthanded, and blade up or blade down. I can tell you from personal use this liner locking knife is up to the toughest of challenges. I carry the Pointman in my field pack and have done things to it you shouldn't do to knives, and it is still carrying on.
The Pointman is one of several knives in the BlackHawk line. You won't go wrong with any of BlackHawk's knives and there are many price points to choose from.
When it comes to knives with a long and storied history it is very tough to top Ka-Bar. Ka-Bar has been making knives for our troops for decades. Today they still serve our troops, but now they also have several offerings for duty use.
The last Ka-Bar I had was one of their fighting knives when I was in the Army, so I figured I would trust the crew at Ka-Bar to give me some direction. They sent a Warthog Folder, and I had to call to verify the price of $17.79. Yes, that is the right price.
Ka-Bar Warthog Folder
The Warthog is a solid folder with G10 handles and a liner locking blade made from DIN 1.4116 stainless steel. From what I can tell this is a helluva knife. I haven't tried to destroy it, but the design of the Warthog blade looks nearly unbreakable.
I passed the Warthog Folder around to the guys I work and shoot with, and they couldn't believe this knife retails for under $20. This is a tough crowd, and they all gave it two thumbs up. Ka-Bar will surprise you, too. Check them out.
Benchmade is another company that surprised me with the number of offerings in its line for less than a "C" note. I was really amazed when an H&K logoed knife, the Ally, arrived for this article.
The H&K Ally is a simple, compact, single piece folded stainless steel knife. This makes it slim and reduces its weight and cost. It's also useful for rescue situations. At the lanyard loop end of the knife is a glass breaker, and the AUS8 blade is partially serrated to aid in cutting seat belts and harness webbing.
Benchmade H&K Ally
I found the Ally to be a utilitarian knife that lives up to the heritage of the most expensive Benchmade knives. Apparently so did a number of the guys; it had drool marks on it after I finished showing it to them.
SOG Knives has been manufacturing innovative tools and knives for many years. The Paratool continues this innovation. What sets it apart from other pocket tools is the pivoting pliers head. This comes in handy when working on flush fitting nuts or cutting a wire in tight quarters.
Ventilation in the black oxide stainless handles allows drainage when operating in wet conditions. The handles secret a knife blade, serrated blade, flat (small and large) screwdriver, a Philips screwdriver, a file, and a punch. The Paratool comes with a nylon sheath to keep it handy at all times.
SOG Knives Paratool and Aegis Knife
SOG's Aegis is one of the newest knives in the company's line. It uses SAT (surest assisted technology) to aid in one-handed opening. A lock on the blade keeps the knife from opening in your pocket; major ouch.
To ensure you don't lose the knife, the Aegis has a large reversible clip. Tacky rubber strips in the grips give you a solid purchase on the knife, and numerous serrations on the frame offer even more security.
The next company that multi-tasks for duty is CRKT. Columbia River Knife and Tool from day one has made quality affordable knives for the user. A few years back CRKT added multi-tools to their line; the ZillaTool. I opted for the Jr., because space is at a premium on your duty belt.
The ZillaTool Jr. includes a true knife (combination blade), needle nose pliers with wire cutter, and a small Philips and flat blade screwdriver. You can clip the Jr. to your belt or it can be The Jr. should cover most duty needs and not weigh you down.
Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) ZillaTool Jr. and Ignitor Knife
If you want a cool looking and useful knife, CRKT's Ignitor is the answer. The grips are serrated and textured G10 and the blade is 8Cr14MoV steel with Veff serrations. This liner locking blade will make short work of most anything you encounter on duty.
What sets the Ignitor apart from other knives is the patented Outburst assisted opening system with FireSafe. This is a lock and opening system in one. When you push in on the button, the assist takes over and opens the blade. It is virtually impossible to accidentally open this knife. The Ignitor with its safety innovations and excellent cutting blade will serve you for many years.
Gerber Legendary Blades has been around since I was but an Airman several years ago. I have found Gerber to make excellent knives and tools that can survive most anything.
If you are looking for a compact tool that thinks it is a tool box, the Multi-Plier 400 Compact Sport is the answer. This small titan has needlenose pliers, a wire cutter, wire crimper, serrated knife blade, Fiskars scissors, cross point screwdriver, flat blade screwdrivers (small, medium and large), can opener, and a bottle opener. I think those tools will fix most on-duty repairs and then some.
Gerber Compact 400 and Mini-Covert F.A.S.T.
Two things set the Multi-Plier apart from others. One is the spring loaded Saf.T.Plus lock found on each tool in the handle so you don't accidently close a knife blade on your fingers.
The other unusual feature you'll find on this tool is sliding pliers, which reduce the closed overall length of the tool. The pliers can be opened with the flick of a wrist, then simply squeeze the releases to unlock; no fuss, no muss.
If you are looking for a knife with a long history, the Mini-Covert F.A.S.T is it. This knife's lineage goes back to the Applegate-Fairbairn, one of the classic fighting knives. The Mini is an assisted opening knife using Forward Action Spring Technology. This assist also acts as the lock of the blade; it is both fast and solid in operation.
The knife has a 2.9-inch 154CM black coated combination blade highlighted by Applegate's and Fairbairn's signatures. The frame is stainless with textured G10 grips. The pocket clip is both low profile and quite substantial; it feels and looks indestructible. Like its larger siblings, the Mini Covert is a knife built for work that also has style to spare.
As you can see, if you take some time and look, you can find quality knives and tools for duty at a reasonable price. You don't have to resort to buying garage sale specials to save a few bucks for a tool that may save your life or someone else's.
Scott Smith is a former federal police officer for the Department of Veteran's Affairs and a contributing editor to POLICE.