Types of Pocket Knives: Blades, Brands, and More! Complete Guide

Avatar photo Avatar photo

It can be overwhelming When you’re first learning about pocket knives. There are so many different types of steel and handle materials, and what the heck is a sheepsfoot anyway? A good pocket knife is one of the most essential parts of an everyday carry kit; knowing a little about what makes them so good can go a long way. In this guide, we’ll break down what you should know about pocket knives into bite-sized chunks so you’ll know what to look for when you come across a knife that catches your eye.

This post was last updated on 12/27/2023.

Drop Point

Featured Pick: Vosteed Raccoon

One of the most common types of knives that you’ll come across is the drop point. Some of the most popular everyday carry knives are rocking a drop point. It’s easy to tell a drop point from other knives because they have a characteristic slight slope down the spine ending in a sharp point. This helps with finer cutting work. Drop points are great general-purpose knives used for everything from skinning fish to cutting boxes. Whether you’re on your 20th knife or want one to last you, a drop point knife is always a great option because of its versatility.


Featured Pick: Kizer Mini Sheepdog Titanium

Not as common as the drop point, the sheepsfoot blade has a much more unique look. Still, knives with this shape blade tend to find their way into plenty of setups. You can identify these knives by the lack of a sharp tip. Instead opting for a spine that runs parallel to the cutting edge before curving down at a sharp angle to the tip. A sheepsfoot blade is great for cutting tasks like food prep, so they’re commonly found in kitchens on chef’s knives. The lack of a sharp tip makes it difficult for more precise cutting tasks, so if that’s what you’re looking for, this probably isn’t for you.

Clip Point

Featured Pick: Demko AD20.5

A clip point blade is another common knife type. The identifier on these knives is the blade, which appears clipped off towards the last third of the blade along the spine. The resulting shape ends in a sharp point for fine cuts. These knives have a thinner spine, which makes it easy to pierce tough materials, but because they are so narrow, they can also break more than some of the other blade shapes if you try to pry something open. Some of the most iconic everyday carry and hunting knives are clip point blades.

Spear Point

Featured Pick: Kershaw Iridium

The spear point is a symmetrical blade great for piercing or thrusting and is also used in some throwing knives. These knives can have one or two sharp edges that meet at the point of the blade. A spear point knife is thicker than needle points, making it more durable and less prone to snapping. These are not ideal for tough chopping jobs as they’re meant for piercing or field dressing.


Featured Pick: Hogue Deka Magnacut

While most knives have a straight spine with a sharp edge that curves up to meet the point, the wharncliffe does the opposite. It has a straight edge blade that meets a tapered spine at the tip, like a sheepsfoot blade. The spine of these blades is convex, and that, along with the straight edge, makes it a useful utility knife. These blades are used for cutting on flat surfaces or opening boxes. Due to the curved spine, a Wharncliffe is not ideal for piercing or puncturing.

Straight Back

Featured Pick: Morakniv Garberg

A straight back is one of the more common blade shapes in the everyday carry community. These are characterized by sharp, straight edges that curve up to meet the blade’s spine. Crucially, the spine of these knives is usually dull, making it a safe place to add pressure for tougher slicing or cutting jobs or even for striking a ferrocerium rod to get sparks going for a fire. These are a common shape in fixed blades that will be used outdoors in tough survival situations or for tasks around camp.


Featured Pick: Damned Designs Chimera

Tanto knives have a more specialized blade shape that consists of an angled tip with no belly and two cutting edges. The design is based on traditional Japanese weapons designed for piercing and stabbing, but in the everyday carry world, these are also great for scraping and prying tasks since they’re more durable than some other blade shapes.

Gut Hook

Featured Pick: Buck 685 BuckLite Max II

A gut hook knife has one real purpose: gutting game (hence the name). These knives are characterized by a small hook at the blade’s tip that protrudes backward along the spine, allowing a hunter to cut through skin without damaging anything underneath. Due to the specialized nature of these knives, they’re rare in everyday carry but very handy in the field.


Featured Pick: Fox Knives 599 Karambit

Hawkbill knives are so named because they resemble a hawk’s sharp beak (or talons). The spine and the blade’s edge curve sharply downward and meet in a curve that is great for ripping and slicing. Whether you’re cutting through carpet, gardening, or stripping wires, these specialized knives do light work of jobs that would be more difficult with any other type of knife. Again, these are rarer to see in most everyday carry due to the specialized nature of the blade. But they’re generally not uncommon, considering the wide range of use cases for construction and electrical work.

Blade Edge

The type of tasks you encounter will determine the blade edge you should be looking for.

Fully serrated edge: If you need to cut through wavy fabrics, belts, or ropes often, then a serrated knife is best. The teeth on the blade make it easier to cut through tough materials with more control. This is a great option for first responders, for example.

Plain edge: The plain edge knife is the most common everyday carry knife. It has a continuous sharp edge that can be used for various purposes ranging from food prep to precise carving. A plain edge knife will be more than enough for most everyday carry situations.

Partially serrated edge: A partially serrated edge combines serrated and plain edge knives. They usually have serrations on the bottom half of the blade, while the top half is a plain edge. These knives cover a wide range of use cases. The serrations are perfect for cutting through tough materials, while the plain edge makes slicing and cutting easier to handle.

Number of Blades

Single-blade pocket knives: When it comes to everyday carry, most pocket knives you’ll come across are single-blade. As the name implies, these are knives that have a single blade.

Multi-blade pocket knives: A multi-blade pocket knife is a knife that gives you more than one option for cutting tasks. It might have one straight-edge blade that you can use for food prep as well as another serrated blade for cutting twine. While these aren’t the most common knives, they’re dead useful.

Multi-tools & Swiss Army Knives: Swiss Army Knives and multi-tools will usually have a knife or two built-in but will also offer some other useful tools like screwdrivers, pliers, and bit drivers, to name a few. One thing worth mentioning is that most multi-tools skimp out on a quality blade in favor of a more compact form factor.

Blade Steel

The type of blade steel manufacturers use is also worth considering when buying a knife. Some are easier than others to sharpen, while others are tougher and more durable. There is no perfect knife, but the right combination of materials could be perfect for you.

Carbon steel: Carbon steel knives have a reputation for being more durable than other kinds of steel. They hold an edge for longer, are easy to sharpen when dull, and a sharp knife is safe. When it comes to everyday carry, this a great option as everyday carry knives tend to get put through a lot in daily use.

Tool steel: Tool steel is a type of carbon alloy used to make durable tools, including knives. The benefits of tool steel are mainly toughness. They’re harder, resistant to abrasion, and retain their shape in high temperatures. For heavy-duty work, tool steel is hard to beat.

Stainless steel: Stainless steel blades are one of the more popular options simply because they’re usually cheaper to produce. That said, there are still plenty of reasons why you might want a stainless steel knife instead. They’re usually plenty durable and can be made thinner without sacrificing toughness. They also have a high water resistance, meaning they won’t rust as easily.

Locking Mechanism

Lock Back: A lock back mechanism is a classic on plenty of folding knives. The spine locks in place thanks to a small notch on the back of the blade. Closing the knife is as simple as pushing down on the part of the spine exposed to disengage the lock and fold the blade. These are great for everyday carry as they’re a safe and reliable method of deploying a blade, but they’re difficult to open one-handed.

Mid Lock: A mid lock is similar to a lock back mechanism. The main difference is that the release mechanism is towards the middle of the blade.

Liner Lock: A liner lock mechanism is one of the most common types of locking mechanisms. It features a side spring bar lining the inside of the handle. The spring bar is held in place by tension when the knife is closed, but when the blade deploys, the metal bar props open the knife, keeping it secure.

Frame Lock: A frame lock works very similarly to a liner lock, but the difference is that the metal tension bar is a part of the frame/scale of the knife. This results in a stronger lock since the metal bar is tougher than the one used in a liner lock and is also usually paired with a separate piece of hardened steel, called a lockbar insert, which is the part that makes contact with the blade while open.

Ring Lock: A ring lock is a type of lock made famous by the Opinel knives. It’s a simple and affordable way of locking the blade in place. It uses a small metal ring that you can rotate around to keep the blade from closing in the middle of a job. When the task is done, spin the ring around again until the blade lines up with the space of the ring so that you can close it.

Lever Lock: A lever lock uses a metal pin and a hole in the blade’s tang to keep the knife open. The pin slides into the hole and clicks in place when the blade opens. When you’re done, lift the pin out of the tang using the lever on the knife to fold the blade.

Slipjoint: Slipjoints are most common with Swiss Army Knives. These knives don’t have a separate lock mechanism and usually need two hands to use. These use tension and a small spring bar to deploy the blade and lock it back into place.

Opening Mechanism

Manual: A manual knife requires you to deploy the blade either with two hands or by flicking a thumb stud or cutout in the blade. They have locks that will click into place when deployed, but that isn’t a requirement (like the Ring Lock, for instance).

Automatic: An automatic knife does not need any force from the user to open the blade. Also called switchblades, these are knives where the blade jumps out from the handle at the press of a button thanks to integrated levers and springs.

Assisted opening: An assisted opening knife fits right between manual and automatic. While it relies on the user to begin the process of deploying the knife, it also has an internal mechanism that takes over at the halfway point to finish the job.

Handle Materials

G-10: A G-10 handle is a special material made from fiberglass and an epoxy resin. The two are pushed together under extremely high pressure and heat until combined into a composite.

Celluloid: Celluloid is a type of plastic formed by combining cellulose, nitrate, and camphor. It was a very common type of handle in the early 1900s and could be made into handles with bright swirling colors that were also durable enough for everyday carry.

Bone: Some knives have handles made from the bones of animals (usually cows, pigs, or sheep) that have been polished down until they’re super smooth and easy to hold.

Aluminum: Aluminum is a very common handle option for many everyday carry knives because they’re lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and can be anodized to have a variety of finishes. They’re also not as expensive to work with as other materials.

Zytel: Zytel is a fairly modern composite material and is a type of Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN). This material is virtually indestructible while remaining lightweight and fairly inexpensive.

Micarta: Micarta is another fairly common type of knife handle that’s made using layers of canvas, linen, or even paper. The materials are layered and held in place by plastic resin. The resulting material is a durable, grippy, and tough material that can take a beating and develop a patina over time.

Wood: Along with bone, wood is one of the most popular materials to work with in human history. A wooden handle can be durable, provide a good grip, and age beautifully with time, giving heirloom pocket knives a great look.

Titanium: Titanium has been a popular metal recently thanks to its strength-to-weight ratio. It’s about ⅓ of the weight of steel without sacrificing any toughness, which is essential in a knife you will be using every day. The downside is that titanium can be expensive, so be prepared to shell out more for it.

Stag: Stag handles are handles made from deer antlers. The material is highly dense and super durable, and it gives your knife a unique look that can’t be easily replicated in a factory.

Stainless steel: Stainless steel is an excellent choice for handles simply because of its durability. Stainless steel is corrosion-resistant and usually not too expensive either.

Delrin: Delrin is a type of thermoplastic that’s tough, lightweight, and wear-resistant. It’s also the stiffest, unreinforced polymer you can get for a knife handle.

Mother of Pearl: Mother of pearl is made of tiny calcium carbonate crystals that give the material an iridescent look similar to that of a pearl. It’s also known as nacre and is usually on the expensive side.

Kraton: Kraton is a synthetic rubbery thermoplastic with a non-slip grip. It’s great for everyday carry as it’s extremely durable, resistant to heat, and doesn’t need a lot of upkeep. It has such a great texture and grip that it shouldn’t slip out of your hand even if wet.

Rubber: Another type of material found on handles is rubber. While it isn’t a super popular option, a rubber knife handle is a solid choice for everyday carry since it’s impact-resistant, water-resistant, and comfortable in the hand.

Our Favorite Brands

Benchmade: Benchmade is an Oregon-based company that has become one of the most popular brands when it comes to everyday carry knives. They offer a wide range of high-performance knives, from fixed blades and hunting knives to folders and kitchen cutlery.

CRKT: CRKT (Columbia River Knife & Tool) was founded in 1994 in Oregon as well by two former employees of Kershaw Knives. Since then, CRKT has become a go-to for trustworthy pocket knives for adventurers and desk divers alike.

Spyderco: Spyderco was founded in 1976 in California and is known for its spider logo and signature Round Hole in place of thumb studs. Spyderco knives tend to have a unique look compared to other knives, and their options range in price from entry-level to grail.

WE Knife Co.: Established in 2000, WE Knife Co. has aimed to shift the view of Chinese-made pocket knives. They use premium materials and collaborate with industry experts, producing innovative designs and premium-quality knives.

Buck Knives: Buck Knives is a classic folding knife company that has existed since 1902. It also makes hunting knives and modern folding knives, but it’s known for its traditional folder, which has stood the test of time.

ESEE: ESEE Knives is a premium survival knife brand, and since 1997, they’ve designed affordable knives used by law enforcement, adventurers, and survivalists alike.

Kershaw Knives: Kershaw Knives was founded in Oregon in 1974 by Peter Kershaw and has churned out some of the most popular everyday carry pocket knives on the market. It’s now a brand of Kai USA Limited, which sources and manufactures knives, but Kershaw remains a powerhouse thanks to the variety of options it offers at affordable prices.

Gerber Gear: Gerber Gear was founded in 1939 in Portland, Oregon, and makes all kinds of knives and multitools. Whether you’re looking for hunting knives, multitools, or a solid pocket knife to add to your everyday carry kit, Gerber knives are tried and true gear that won’t break the bank.

Opinel: Opinel Knives was founded by Joseph Opinel in France in 1890. It’s one of the most classic types of folding knives, and the simple design has remained popular for over 100 years.

CIVIVI: The CIVIVI brand was launched in 2018 by WE and is well known for offering high-performance pocket knives that look good, feel good, and get the job done at affordable prices.

Kizer: Kizer is based in Guangzhou, China, and has been around since 2012. They offer a wide range of high-performance knives, so whether you’re looking for a knife for camping, hunting, or everyday use, Kizer likely has a knife that will fit the bill.

Kansept: Kansept was founded in 2020 in the knife Mecca of China: Yangjiang by Kim Ning, a former employee and designer for Kizer Knives. Kansept is passionate about creating practical knives at budget-friendly prices and premium quality for everyday use.

Tips And Laws For Pocket Knives

Knives are not toys.

It should go without saying that knives are tools, not toys. Always treat your knife respectfully and exercise caution whenever you take it out. Not everyone sees knives as tools; to some, they are weapons.

Know your laws.

Regarding how knives are viewed, know your local laws when shopping for a knife. Some places have laws to limit the carrying of knives of a certain length, while others limit the type of knife you’re allowed to carry, and still others don’t have any real laws! It’s better to be safe than sorry. Always know your local laws.

Open the knife away from your face.

Even when handled with care, accidents happen, and knives can be dangerous. Opening the knife away from your face is always a good idea. Even though modern knives are made to withstand a beating, things can go wrong, and small essential pieces can still break.

Watch your fingers when closing your knife.

Many knives fold into the handle for easy storage, so be mindful that your fingers don’t get caught in the way when you’re closing it. Especially knives like slip joints and friction folders that don’t have a dedicated lock to prevent the blade from closing accidentally.

Cut away from your body.

It’s always good practice to cut away from your body just in case the knife slips. You don’t want to cut into your new shirt accidentally. Better safe than sorry.

Use personal protective equipment.

While most people will likely use their pocket knives in everyday situations, there are some times when proper protective equipment is necessary. A sturdy pair of gloves or some cheap protective eyewear goes a long way.

Properly store and maintain your knife.

It may seem counterintuitive, but a sharp knife is a safe knife. The sharper a knife is, the less likely it will slip and accidentally cause an accident. A properly maintained knife will do your bidding if you’re intentional with every cut. Make sure to sharpen regularly and oil the blade occasionally if necessary.


The Benchmade Bugout 535 and Victorinox Swiss Army Knives are two of the most popular pocket knives.

What is the coolest type of pocket knife?

This is definitely up to personal preference, but we have a list of the coolest knives that might be worth checking out!

What knives are used by Navy SEALs?

Navy SEALs tend to use military-issued knives that aren’t always available to the general public. However, some brands are often associated with Navy SEALs, including SOG, KA-BAR, and Toor knives.

Previous Post

The Best Swiss Army Knife in 2024: Reviews and Top Picks

Next Post

Six New Year's Resolutions for a Better Everyday Carry

Related Posts