Editor's note: View our fixed-blade knives photo gallery with all the photos and information about these knives, as well as a bonus knife that didn't appear in print.
There are those in law enforcement who balk at the idea of using a fixed-blade knife on duty. Not wanting to look like Rambo, fear that the agency will frown on it, and concern about the weight or size of the knife are but a few reasons you will not see many patrol officers carrying a big fixed blade. Most of us carry a clip-it knife of one make or another instead. But what if you need a serious knife for certain situations?
Many of the fixed blades built for law enforcement are designed for heavy-duty applications: cutting seat belts and harnesses, hacking through underbrush, breaking windows, prying open doors (not recommended), or they can even be used to puncture liquid containers. These uses will generally destroy any pocket knife you might carry.
In my research for this piece I found knives that can be carried and used daily, knives for use by game commission/drug eradication agents, or members of SWAT. These fixed blades are built by well-known manufacturers for heavy-duty service under pressure.
5.11 Tactical's Side Kick RT was designed from the ground up for rescue work. It's more a tool than it is a knife, which is what you need to extricate someone from a vehicle or a harness. Because the blade is both a flat point and a partially serrated short single side edge, you can work close to flesh should you need more knife than the shroud/harness/clothing cutter.
This one-piece rescue tool is a hair shorter than six inches with a two-inch blade. It can also be used as a wedge or a small pry bar. The taper of the front flat blade fits easily into a vehicle or house window or door frame. I found it even provides enough leverage to move modern frameless vehicle windows and not cut the door seal.
Not only can you cut and pry with the Side Kick, but you can turn oxygen tanks off or on. This might seem minor to police but if you are an EMT or medical first responder, this tool allows you to quickly swap out oxygen tanks. The Side Kick RT is truly a tool that will serve you well on duty and not take up more room on your crowded duty belt.
If you want a fixed-blade knife, one that fits most agency policies covering knife blades is the Benchmade Nim Cub II. Its 3.5-inch blade and tang are one piece. This makes the Nim Cub II a strong, tough knife. For a solid grip, Benchmade uses Noryl GTX, which is also tough and capable of surviving most chemicals you could come in contact with on duty.
What sets this knife apart from others is the range of blade options. To start, you can choose from a tanto or a drop point, both of which have strong points that will survive duty. Then you can choose from a plain edge or a partially serrated edge. I have found partial serrations work very well on belts, harnesses, or seat belts.
The Nim Cub II is a knife built to meet your needs on duty or off duty. It will survive work on the street or in the field. If you are looking for a working knife, the Nim Cub II is one I would consider.
BlackHawk Products Group was acquired by ATK to bring new products to the tactical market, and the Nightedge is a good example of one such product.
This heavy bladed knife was designed by Allen Elishewitz to serve the end user. You can cut with a back stroke or a draw back stroke and, thanks to the serrated back edge of the knife, it will make short work of most any string or cord. Should you need to pry something open (again, not the intended use), the Nightedge's full tang will supply the strength you need. The special grinding of the blade yields a modified drop point, which is strong and durable.
Because of how far the tang extends past the handles of the grip, it is long enough to become a window breaker or impact weapon, depending on the situation. And should you use the Nightedge to break a window or to defend yourself, the blade guard and textured grip will keep you from sliding onto the cutting edges.[PAGEBREAK]
Seeing as how law enforcement officers are often the first responders to vehicle accidents and other incidents that require removing webbing or clothing, Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) sought to develop a knife built for that purpose. With input from Terry Renner the company came up with the Neckolas. With a fully serrated round blunt tipped blade, this fixed-blade rescue knife is designed to cut the toughest materials even next to your skin and not cut you.
You will find the Neckolas' sheath has a clip that allows you to attach it as a left- or right-handed knife. But this knife's most distinctive feature is its thumb lock. As the name implies, as you draw the knife your thumb pushes down, releasing the knife. This lock will keep the knife secure even when out white water rafting.
And speaking of water, the Neckolas is made from 8Cr13MoV, which is highly corrosion resistant and holds an edge. The handle is just as tough, being made from bright orange checkered G10. Just short of being pounded with a big hammer, the Neckolas should survive anything you can dish out. You can keep it at hand on a sheath or hang it from the neck lanyard; yes, the knife is that light. This is one of those knives you cannot say weighs too much to carry daily.
Many tactical team members attach fixed-blade knives to their vests or harnesses because a big blade has many purposes. If you are going to use yours to hack away at something, as a pry bar, or as a stake to hold a tie down, you will need a serious knife. Cold Steel's Leatherneck SF is one such knife.
The Leatherneck is as tough as its namesake Marine and was built to meet the needs of the USMC; it should survive police duty. Its SK-5 high carbon blade is a full tang and its handle is made of textured Kraton to give you a secure grip in most any conditions. Should you need to use the Leatherneck as a hammer, fear not. The butt cap is machined steel and it will handle some abuse.
You will find the sheath is just as tough as the knife. It offers you a wrap snap and friction/clip lock so the Leatherneck stays put with or without the snap secured. The sheath allows you to choose how you attach the knife to your gear; via a belt, MOLLE, etc. Cold Steel built the Leatherneck SF and sheath to endure the rigors of the Corps, so I think it will hold up to tactical and SAR duty.
Another fixed blade that is built from the ground up as a duty knife is the Gerber LMF II. This knife is MIRS Compliant, should you be a member of a Military Police unit looking for a serious knife.
You can attach the LMF II to your vest or belt via the loop or MOLLE straps. The sheath has both a friction clip and snap straps to secure the LMF II. I found the knife fits and comes out of the sheath smoothly and easily once the strap is removed, yet is secure in most any situation until you remove it.
A rubber overmolded grip covers the full tang blade so you will not get a jolt should you cut a live power cord with the knife. And should you need it, the end of the tang protrudes from the grip to form a glass breaker. The 420HC stainless blade is partially serrated because that was requested by the unit the knife was originally designed for.
With its 4.75-inch blade, this knife should not raise eyebrows when you attach it to your gear. Gerber built the LMF II to meet the needs of military and police units alike.
When one hears the name Glock, the first thing we all think of are the high-capacity polymer pistols many officers and deputies carry on duty daily. It might surprise you to know that Glock also manufactures excellent fixed-blade knives. They were designed with the input of and to meet the needs of the Austrian Army Rangers.
The Glock Survival Knife is offered with a saw blade on the rear of the blade. With a plain flat edge, it's called the Field Knife. The saw will make short work of tree branches. The blade is high carbon steel and is coated to help it resist corrosion and reduce glare.
I have found the Glock Survival Knife to be one of the most durable blades I have used. I keep one in the storage area of my SUV and it has been used in rain, snow, and other crappy weather, and has yet to rust or fail me. It clips into the polymer belt sheath and in all the years I have owned one it has never come out once clipped in. With a price of less than $35, I suggest carrying one in your duty bag no matter the area you patrol in case you need a serious knife to cut a tree branch, break a window, or even dig a small hole. Glock's Field or Survival Knife will be up to the job.[PAGEBREAK]
One of the first and still one of the finest tactical tools around is the Becker/Ka-Bar TacTool. As the name implies this is a tool, but it's also a big knife.
The TacTool is a harness cutter, machete, hammer, window breaker, pry bar, and I think it will make julienned fries too. I have used the TacTool to fell trees as large as four or five inches around, make kindling, and pry open stuck barn doors. It also does a good job of breaking house or vehicle glass. You can do all of this thanks to a heavy full tang blade and the strength from the three flats of the blade.
There really is no "sharp point" on this knife that could be a weak point. The angles allow the TacTool to slip into a window seal or a door jamb and not shear off, unlike a drop point or tanto-style blade. The distinctive design of this blade is what makes it a TacTool and not a tac-knife. The Becker/Ka-Bar TacTool is one item I would add to the kit of a SWAT, drug, or search and rescue team because it is so versatile.
The largest knife in this roundup is the SOG Jungle Canopy. This is not your average sheath knife; it is a 10-inch-bladed mini-machete. While most officers will never have a need for something like this, wild life resource, drug enforcement, or any other law enforcement team that works in the woods will find it a valuable tool.
You might guess with its machete design that the Jungle Canopy is built to hack through things. You would be right. This is a razor-sharp, reduced-size machete. It will make short work of vines, bushes, tree branches; most anything you will have to hack through.
Because it's made from chrome moly vanadium steel, the Jungle Canopy is highly corrosion resistant. This steel will also hold a sharp edge when used against soft items such as wood and bushes. If your team works in or around the woods, there should be a SOG Jungle Canopy in the field with you.
Spyderco's Warrior has a certain mystique about it because of its long and continued evolution. The original was designed for use with reverse-grip tactics inspired by the Korean martial art of HwaRangDo, and the knife has been resurrected more than once. It can now be had in a bright or blackened finish. Either way, the H1 steel this knife is made from is one of the most corrosion resistant steels on the market.
The Warrior's full tang, curved blade is serrated on the flat of the blade and the primary cutting edge is hollow ground. This gives you a knife that can be used to cut in a fore or reverse cut. If used to trap, the back of the blade will cut too. The serrations make short work of most any soft item: rope, harness, seat belt, etc. Because of the flat point, this knife can easily and safely slip under a short sleeve or pant leg so you can use it to provide access to a limb should you need to start an IV. At the opposite end of the Warrior is a window breaker that will punch through a vehicle window.
When I first saw the Warrior I didn't think of it as a knife for duty. However, its versatility makes it ideal for special duty service and it will serve those on waterborne units, SAR teams, or any team that needs a tough, compact knife.
While you may not carry a fixed blade on your Sam Browne belt, they do have many uses on duty. From the diminutive 5.11 Side Kick Rescue Tool to the SOG Jungle Canopy fixed blade, knives have a place in law enforcement. Like everything else you use on duty, there is no replacement for a specific tool when you need it. Don't shy away from packing a fixed-blade knife in your duty bag if your agency allows it; you never know when you might need it.
Scott Smith is a former federal police officer for the Department of Veteran's Affairs who currently serves as a reserve officer and is a contributing editor to POLICE.