Tactical Knife Buyer's Guide

From folders to fixed and everything in between, know what works and what doesn’t before you start slinging blades at your store.
Tactical Knife Buyer's Guide

More times than not, as a retailer of guns, ammo and anything that fits into that realm, knives and blades are usually for sale right next to the hottest firearms and accessories.

The selection of blades available dwarfs the selection of firearms open to law-abiding citizens, with a fraction of the restrictions and paper trails. With all of the selections out there, it’s hard to know what to stock.

To make sense of it all, we took a look at three different types of blades commonly used for three different applications in anywhere from open carry to deep concealment. In other words, here are some options for tactical retailers when it comes to defensive, offensive and simple survivalist or everyday carry knives.

Folding Tactical Knives

Zero Tolerance is a company that was formed through a merger of three heavy hitters in the blade industry.

Ken Onion, Kai USA and the famed Strider Knives have together brought to market a professional-grade combat knife that’s sure to serve the people it was designed for — the warfighters in the non-permissive-type environments. Although Zero Tolerance has dubbed the heavy-duty folders as “combat knives,” they can also be used as everyday carry tools. The knives sit opposite of your concealed carry holster and firmly inside the pocket by a heavy clip that stands up to the rigors of deployment.

The ZT301 is built like a tank and, from personal experience, can actually be used as a tool and a blade. The blade itself is constructed out of S30V stainless steel with tiger-stripe Tungsten DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating. Deploying this folder is easy — gloved or bare handed — by an ambidextrous thumb stud or flipper (located on the back side of the blade protruding out of the back of the knife).

If your customers want to save a few bucks, they’d be hard-pressed to find a blade that takes as much abuse as the ZT0350 and saves them coins as well. Remember, ZT designed the 0350 for guys who work in tough places across the globe and expect their gear to perform day-in and day-out. I have used my 0350 to tighten thumb mount screws on optics, cut on Midwest whitetail and even scrape carbon off of belt-fed weapons — not in that order. The knife might not split a hair down the middle, but it will hold the edge that you have on it.

Gripping the knife comes with ease as ZT has fixed a G10 panel that even with sweaty or wet hands is sure to be aggressive and non-slipping. The other side is textured the same as the G10 panel except it is made of machined titanium, reaffirming the tank-like durability.

The ZT 301 and 0350 comes standard in either matte black or ranger green. ZT occasionally does limited runs of the sought-after flat dark earth. The blade lock mechanism ensures that the blade is locked into place with little to no chance of folding accidentally while in use.

Multi-Purpose Tactical Knife

Next in the lineup is Benchmade’s Adamas fixed-blade knife. This blade was developed to offer a single solution to multiple needs that the U.S. special operations troops were barking for. From explosive ordnance disposal to diving, the Benchmade Adamas answers the call.

The Adamas blade is triple faceted with two cutting edges and a serrated portion for sawing. Some would suggest Benchmade took a play out of the legendary Ka-Bar’s book by adding a cutting edge to the top (opposite of the long cutting axis) by edging the top 1.5 inches of the blade, an option that EOD guys appreciate for splitting det cord and scraping wire.

The Adamas comes with a sheath and adjustable retention system made by Bladetech that can be fixed to MOLLE webbing or a belt for quick access with stiff retention. To test the claimed retention, I removed and replaced the knife in and out of the sheath 150 times and the retention was the same on the 150th as it was on the first — something your customers will appreciate, knowing their blade is not coming out of the sheath without deliberate pull.

For my sharp test I used the Adamas just as it was designed for — cutting things. The Adamas’ edge held up as I expected through a variety of fabric. I moved on to cardboard, then sheetrock. After I hacked away at the sheetrock, it was time to put an edge back on the blade. I used a standard diamond angle stone, and before long the edge was back and true as ever.

The sheetrock dust and residue wasn’t as easy to get off the FDE Cerakote, though. But hey, a knife isn’t made to look pretty anyway, is it?

Gripping the knife unbraided was a bit cumbersome and rigid, and if your customers are anything like me they don’t want to tie a bunch of knots or braid 550 cord down the handle. Unfortunately, if you want Adamas to be comfortable in the hand, it’s going to need a corded grip.

Customers can go to Benchmade’s website and watch a quick tutorial on how to braid up the handle in a snap. The added 550 cord touch offers a great deal of aesthetics to the knife as well. Available in black, ranger green and flat dark earth Cerakote, these knives are resistant to corrosion and other impurities that are typically found on used blades.

For a longer blade that isn’t debilitating, Benchmade’s Adamas is one of the best that I have used and will continue to use in both permissive and non-permissive environments when needed.

Short And Sweet

Chances are, if you’re selling knives, a good majority of your clients are collectors and possibly even knife experts. From survival use to tactical applications, anyone who totes guns or is into them will almost always have a blade on them or in their go bag.

TOPS knives has been supplying lots of customers with blades since 1998. The M1 Midget is one of my personal favorites and has been firmly affixed to me for more than 10 years. The Midget comes with a fully rotatable sheath that is accommodating to any placement. The Midget’s ergonomic handle is extremely easy to get to even when located on the small of my back.

TOPS spear point edge on the Midget has been useful in many different applications — from cutting whitetail deer hide to opening ammo crates, the spear point has proven to be durable and holds up to anything I’ve thrown at it.

Due to the design and width of the Midget’s blade, the knife isn’t suited to defensive applications. The blade is wider than your typical knife for cutting and chopping purposes. For example, if you’re out in the woods and need to carve a stake or cut through bone, the midget will offer leverage to pinpoint chopping power. It’s like comparing a butcher’s cleaver to a fillet knife.

The Midget’s handle is made of melted and cured resin and offers a solid gripping surface. The broad design of the base of the blade serves in conjunction with the curved handle to offer more leverage with either an over- or under-handed grip. I have used this knife in multiple vehicle extraction training exercises, and the handle allows for a hard striking surface when needing to punch through a window to extract or escape from a vehicle.

TOPS Knives uses sheaths made of riveted and molded Kydex plastic. Each sheath is custom fit to your knife’s specifications. An extremely rigid belt loop on the back of the sheath is held on by a rubber grommet so your knife doesn’t spin freely while mounted. Your customers can mount the sheath and rotate it to their liking and it will stay in place with minimal adjusting over time.

Diminutive Defender

Roughly 18 months ago, S&S Precision exploded onto the market, offering up some of the most innovative kits the industry has ever seen, from molded, super lightweight plate carriers, to rifle slings, to my favorite blade: the Pocket SHIV.

The Pocket SHIV is anything but a general-purpose cutting implement. Although it can be used as such, the intent of the blade is strictly for last-ditch survival. This little guy can be thrown into your jeans pocket with your loose change or be mounted directly onto your kit with the included S&S MOLLE adapter and sheath.

The Pocket SHIV is a fixed tool constructed of edge-keeping 440C stainless steel. Wrapped in an over-molded rubber grip, the SHIV is sure to stay between the end user’s fingers. Available in three colors (black, sunkissed and tan) the SHIV is aesthetically pleasing no matter where you are.

I thank a good blade is an essential part of anyone’s “bail-out-bag,” especially if you find yourself in parts of our country where guns aren’t exactly accepted. There is nothing more important than your personal security. Everyone should have the means to defend themselves as well as those around them. All three blades are rugged as hell and will withstand anything your customers will throw at them — or throw them at.

Zero Tolerance has a plethora of blades to choose from and Benchmade has even more. You can choose the blades for your customers’ personal applications. S&S precisions SHIV is a more compartmentalized implement, but can be used for just about anything. All three tools are catchy to the eye, yet can be blended with the end user’s surroundings so they’re not standing out like a sore thumb.


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