Best Knife for carry and self-defense

Sep 6, 1999

This is my first visit to this forum. Very
interesting topics and discussions going on.

I need some opinions on the following:
I live in California and given the gun control laws and the paranoia over guns I wanted to look at a back up method of defending my family.

1. I need some advice on a good knife to carry for self-defense and street fighting.
Of course it needs to be legal as well.

2. Now that I have the knife, what's the best way to carry it? Sheath, holster, harness?

3. I also have no idea on the carry laws for knives in California, any help?

4. Any recommendations on good books that will teach techniques, grips, moves, etc.

Any help would be appreciated.

Uhoh. Here we go again. This comes down to a few things. First is price. You can get a great knife for less than 30, or you can get a greater won for a few hundred. Personal preference is important. It may be a while before you decide what you like BEST. Basically, figure out what you can spend, then find a knife that is comfortable. You may want to consider asking about specific brands. I think most of us will agree that for the average non-knife-user, a folding knife is the best way to go. Look into REKAT, BM, Cold Steel, Camillus, and any others you hear mentioned alot. These are all companies whose products are, for the most part, well-thought-of.

There are too many factors involved for abest knife to be chosen. We ALL agree on certain things, but these are few. And generally, almost none of us can agree on anything :)
Good luck.


Actually, I already own two Benchmade folders. I forgot the exact model name, I believe they are the ATF folders, one with the tanto blade, the other with a clip point.

I was interested in everybody's opinion of these knives being used for a self-defense role as opposed to a Crawford Casper knife
(Yes, I did read the review).

I believe it is illegal to carry a folder with a blade longer than 4"?
(I am assuming that, since most of the combat folders I see for sale don't go over that blade length).

Please excuse my ignorance of laws related to knives, I am definitely more knowledgable about the carry laws as related to firearms.

I know everybody will have a different opinion. But I like hearing from all sides, then I can use that information to make a more intelligent decision.

A controversial topic for is my two pennys worth...nothing beats a fixed blade for strength or speed but in the Cereal State (whats not flakes or fruits are NUTS) carrying one concealed is not legal. One-hand folders and automatics with under 2" blades are legal in CA. For under $100, a Benchmade AFCK, preferably in M2, would be my first choice, I carry one most of the time. For about $160, nothing is faster on the draw than an Emerson Commander, which I carry on occasion also. I think the utility shape of the AFCK is better than the Commander. YMMV.
Although one of the most important questions that can be asked it is unfortunately difficult to answer. It depends a lot on your individual circumstances such as available cash,personal preference,level of training,purpose for carrying and appearance and other things.
cash-if you get cheap junk it will fail you at the worst time,but if you get something too pricey you will be heartbroken when you damage or lose it.
Although not fair, appearance is a consideration.If you are young or look threatening you do not want a blade that screams out fighting knife.
If you are a LEO you can carry anything just about.
There are many intangibles concerning "feel" so you have to pick up and handle them.Something that looks good in a cataloge or on-line might feel clunky or unbalanced in real life.
There currently are so many good products out there now you should have no trouble finding something you like.
As to carrying system and quick presentation,look at what others are doing and/or suggesting then pick which "system" works best for you. Practice till your system is second nature.
Hope this helps.

"Cereal State (whats not flakes or fruits are NUTS)"

That's very funny, I never heard that saying before. I couldn't agree with you more though.

I think I would leave this ridiculously liberal state in an instant for a state like
Vermont (no permit required concealed carry)
if it wasn't for all the high-tech jobs are here (that and I'm not sure I could put up with all that snow in Vermont).

Thanks for the responses. Reading through the boards I am picking up a lot of good info.
I agree w/Chief that a large fixed blade would be best. Make sure that you have a rig that makes it immediately and easily accessable whatever you decide to carry. Can't speak for CA. laws. One thing that is far more important than the weapon brand or type is the one who may need to weild the weapon. GOOD TRAINING WILL IMPROVE THE POTENTIAL EFFECTIVENESS OF ANY WEAPON YOU CHOOSE TO CARRY. If I were you, I would seek out the best instructor that is available in your area, in the practicle use of knives. There are other martial "arts" that may work in this area, but most of the various Filipino martial combat "arts" involve some amount of knife training. Modern Arnis, for example, is one which will allow you to start out training with and with out weapons. Like other of the Filipines, in Arnis you can quickly improve your effectiveness as a protector of your loved ones. Although there are no shortcuts and you only get out of it what you put into personal training, these styles of combat are simple enough to allow you to progress rather rapidly. Many styles of "martial arts" will not teach you how to use weapons for many years, until you become proficient in "open hand" (read weaponless) forms. If you find one of these that you like, go for it and stick w/it.

Althesame, if you choose to train in a school or privately, I'd shop around and choose one that you like: a) the style and b) the instructor. Because, you're more likely to stick with it and become a proficient fighter.

Take it for what its worth: There are alot of good tapes and books, but they are NO substitute for personal instruction. Books and tapes make a good suppliment for someone who already has "martial art" background, IMHO.

I think that you will be able to make up your own mind and be your own best advisor as to what is best suited to your needs after you get formal training.

ps: I presume that you have not had formal training?
My hat's off to you for looking for the best weapon to defend your family with. Best wishes in your decision.

[This message has been edited by EQUALIZER (edited 06 September 1999).]
If I lived in California and thought a self defense knife made sense for me, I would purchase a BenchMade AFCK with an unserrated blade.

I would not use this blade for cutting cardboard or any other mundane tasks.
I would reserve it for a desperate situation.

I normally do not care for liner lock knives, but I think this knife offers the most reliability and capability for the buck that you can legally carry in California.

I would also contact Marion David Poff about the Kasper AFCK, a custom modification of the AFCK for Bob Kasper by, I think, Kevin Gentile.
It sells for the BenchMade suggested retail price.

An amazing amount of knife for the money and size.

Luke 22:36, John 18:6-11
There's (currently) no length limit on concealed manual folders in CA. The Spyderco Civilian is a good example of a defensive folder (although I'm not too sure about the lock back; it's pretty easy to unlock by squeezing). The Spyderco Martiarch is also designed as a defensive folder. Check out the Spyderco forum. The new REKAT Sifu is a "mega-folder" designed for CA carry.
More important than which knife you choose is, knowing how to fight with one.

I think everyone in here would agree that your knife of choice is only as good as your ability to use it.

For utility purposes like, cutting rope, cartons, field dressing game, or something along those lines, the model, and blade type might be important. But when it comes to defending yourself and your family....... just about any knife will suffice, if you know how to use it.

Clay G.

No discussion of defensive folders is complete without considering the Spyderco Civilian:

There are a lot of knives on the market that confuse "fighting" with "defense," or compromise the design with utility concerns. The Civilian does neither - it has one purpose only, and that is to allow the user to extricate him/herself from a dangerous encounter rapidly. It concentrates solely on slashing ability, with the idea that slashes may be untargetted and delivered effectively under duress - even a strike to an assailant's limb will do substantial damage, allowing the opportunity to escape. Its utility is limited, but this is not a problem - a defensive knife should not be dulled with day-to-day chores but rather saved with the sharpest possible edge for a time of need. The blade hole allows rapid opening that rivals any folder available.

The knife pictured is the older aluminum-handled model, and the picture comes from

You can also see the newer G-10 version there, and the owner, James Mattis (this forum's moderator), may also be of great assistance on California's knife laws.

The Civilian is an expensive folder due to its fine construction and complex grind. the new Matriarch might be a less pricey alternative. I have a review here:

I'm sorry if this seems like a sales pitch. I don't work for Spyderco and I don't have formal knife training. I am simply a knifemaker and designer and have appreciated the Civilian for years. I own many of the folders folks may suggest (AFCK, Military, Police..), but always take one of my two Civilians when going into uncomfortable settings. I was recently able to discuss the design with its creator, Sal Glesser of Spyderco, and I admit this left me more impressed than ever about it
I wanted to make sure it didn't get left out of this discussion.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives

[This message has been edited by Corduroy (edited 06 September 1999).]
Dude, I used to live in California!! I still have family there, and ALL of them carry guns/knives(LEGALLY, of course!) A 6 inch Cold Steel Vaquero is LEGAL to carry concealed in the state of California. As long as it is CLOSED it's cool.

As far as what kind of knife to carry, I think what Ken Cox wrote is right on the target. AFCK, proper training, and proper mindset...can't argue with that.
I recognize EWOK's comment about no legal limit to manual folders in CA as probably true.
That might lead me to look at CS's big Gunsite folder, although I have never examined one and cannot testify as to its quality and ergonomics.

I don't believe in knife fights and therefore do not see any value in learning how to fight with a knife.
I don't want a contest with someone, I want to surprise them.

Some folks argue persuasively for a knife as a threat display, and I can see some merit in that regard, but not in all situations.
I also think threat displays work better for women than for men.
A threat display by a man my bring out the competitiveness in his male adversary while at the same time losing the advantage of surprise.

Luke 22:36, John 18:6-11
You guys have stretched my preconceived ideas to the snapping point today.
I especially appreciate the input of Drew Gleason and MrG.
Although I do not train with a knife, I try to develop a mindset, and I think getting some instruction would help with mindset.

Luke 22:36, John 18:6-11
Thanks for the very informative responses,
this forum is great!

Equalizer, you presume correctly in that I have not had any formal training. The Philipino martial combat arts sounds interesting.

Ken, I checked out the link to the Kasper AFCK, it looks good. Your comment about not using the knife for mundane tasks is a good tip. Since I have used my AFCK for cutting cardboard, vegetables, etc. (shame on me).

Corduroy, the Civilian looks good and the theory behind it makes sense as well. For the price I'll probably pick up a Matriarch come Tuesday.

Thanks for the very informative responses,
this forum is great!

Equalizer, you presume correctly in that I have not had any formal training. The Philipino martial combat arts sounds interesting.

Ken, I checked out the link to the Kasper AFCK, it looks good. Your comment about not using the knife for mundane tasks is a good tip. Since I have used my AFCK for cutting cardboard, vegetables, etc. (shame on me).

Corduroy, the Civilian looks good and the theory behind it makes sense as well. For the price I'll probably pick up a Matriarch come Tuesday.

Oops, sorry for the double posts people. My browser seemed to time out on the first post, so I didn't think it went through.
Actually that's quite an interesting point.

Out on the street, in the real world, if we can surprise the would be attacker, the encounter will be over before it can evolve into a cat scratch knife fight.

Food for thought.
If you are not going to carry a fixed blade, get a Kalifornia legal Cold Streel Vaquero Grande or REKAT Sifu.

[This message has been edited by Colin Thompson (edited 06 September 1999).]