Definition of a Tactical Folder?

Sal Glesser

Dec 27, 1998
I'm sure this has come up at least once before, but I would like to come up with a one paragraph or "check list" definition of a "Tactical Folder". Need your help here. No where better to do this.

Must have:
1) Blade
A. Size
B. ?
2) Handle
A. Materials
B. ?
3) Features
A. Sharp
B. ?
C. ?

Hmm... let me try my hand on this one:

Blade size - 4"
flat ground (?) or sabre ground.
Handle Material - G10, or any non-slip material.


I guess this will depend how one defines tactical. For me, I would prefer something that's tactical and utility at the same time. The AFCK is a fine example of this. It's a tactical knife, but with the belly on the blade, it can very well serve as a utility knife as well.

An example of an almost pure tactical folder would probably be the BM Stryker.

I'm sure a lot of the other forumites can give a better perspective on this one.


[This message has been edited by Dannyc (edited 19 June 1999).]
Tactical Knife

What is it?

What a can of worms.

This is my definition.

Blade no less than 3 inches up to swords, there may one day be a knife under 3 inches that I would feel confident using defensively, but not yet. Anything less than three you might as well use your hands.

The blade shape can be a number of kinds, that is based on preference, I like the Spyderco shape (Endura, Delica, Military) of the low point as well I also like the high point of the Moran, and the belly of the Goddard.

Secure handle, this is synergistic. You can play it safe with finger grooves, and abrupt guards but sometimes you don't that, you just need a shape that blends with the hand. The handle material can be anything that is reasonable secure, I love the look of the Micarta handled knives, but they are slippery.

Material of blade just need to take and hold an edge, beyond that some toughness.

Accessibility is very important, it needs to be where you can get at it.

And once you have it in your hand, you need to open it if it is a folder. That is why I like the thumb hole, it just always feels better to me, and offers many options.

Can't think of anything else right now.

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at

"A journey of a thousand miles begins but with a single step" Lao-Tzu

Just some of my evolving thoughts on what a tactical folder is through trial and error of buying.

Blade length should be 3.5" and up and width from spine to edge should be or 1" or more. This allow the blade some weight and some belly in most geometric configurations. The weight allows the blade to be snapped open with inertia as opposed to studs, hole, or disk. I personally like a slightly dropped handle and slightly upswept point (sort of like a Persian but not as pronounced). I find this gives optimal slashing and still be useful for puncturing. I like flat or hollow ground, with perhaps an 1" of false edge near the tip to facilitate penetration.

For handle material, G10 is hard to beat for grippiness. But handle shape plays a bigger role usually in giving a secure grip. I like finger index in the front, file work (not sharp) on front top spine, and contoured shape towards the back of handle, a la KFF or REKAT Carnivour. Like the handle to feel confortable in hammer or ice pick grip.

Since I don't or rarely use a defensive knife for utility, the blade stays sharp. I think I prefer the steel to chip rather than roll on impact with a harder surface. My thinking is I rather have a jagged edge in the "heat" of it rather than no edge.

OK, I'll give this a shot.

First and foremost the lock should be the strongest and most reliable there is.

Deployment should be fast and with great ease.

Grips/Handle should be non-slip. Maybe a slighty rough texture and finger grooves?

Grips should conform to natural, sabre and reverse holds to accomodate most major small knife fighting techniques.

Grips can be used as a blunt instrument when closed, and even a pain compliance tool (ala Escalator).

Grips should have a guard to prevent slippage.

The blade should be very, very sharp and has great edge holding capability even when hitting bones, belt buckles, or other hard materials. For me, this spells s-e-r-r-a-t-e-d.

The blade should at least be four inches for longer reach; the longer the better, if only for intimidation.

The blade should have a good belly; a reverse curve is better.

The blade should have double-edge or at least a sharpened swedge.

A choil would help for precise cuts.

The folder should be discreet. Clip is low pocket carry. All in black?

The folder should be comfortable to carry daily.

The folder should be affordable because everyone has the right to defend himself. Of course, affordability is a relative term, but I think Glock priced their pistols just right. We don't need a SIG ora custom 1911 to have a reliable and accurate pistol, after all.

This is all for now. I'll try to all later...

"It is better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot." -- Anonymous

What is tactical?

I fully agree with Marion when he said, "What a can of worms." I won't bore you with why I think it's a can of worms. However, I do think that the answer to the question of what makes an ideal tactical folder will vary from person to person due to different needs and preferences. So, speaking only for myself, the following is what I would like to see in my version of the perfect fighting folder:

1) Blade

a. A hair under 4 inches.
b. Clip point.
c. False edge.
d. Recurved belly.
e. Coating.
f. 30 degrees angle geometry (It's a fighter, not a scalpel.)

2) Handle

a. G10
b. Stainless steel liner
c. Shaped to aid retention. (Perhaps THE most important thing. My favorite overall design is Bob Kasper's.)

3) Locking mechanism

a. Must be able to withstand a reasonable amount of sharp impacts.
b. Must be able to withstand a reasonable amount of weight stress.
c. Must not compromise the use of the three basic grips (saber, natural, reverse).
d. Should use a flathead screw so the tension can be adjusted with a dime.
d. Would be nice if it wasn't too sensitive to mud.

4) Misc.

a. Ambidexterous opening. Oh wait, you're using the Spyderhole. Nevermind.

b. A big, strong clip for tip-up carry. In fact, feel free to standardize this for all of your knives.
c. It would be nice if it was balanced right at the pivot.
d. Capable of opening quietly.

I'm sure there's more, but I can't think of it right now.
A tactical knife is a fixed or folding knife that is designed for use in an emergency utility situation or as a back-up or hide-out weapon. It must be small and light in weight and easy to carry so it will be carried all the time. It will use modern material such as G-10 and modern steels and kydex carry systems versus classic stag or wood handles and leather carry systems.

I believe a small fixed blade is the way to go, but folders have their place and since you are asking about folders . . .

3.5 to 4 inch length
Recurve edge or slight belly
false edge along top

G-10 or Micarta or anodized aluminum
A way to keep fingers on handle -
1. handle flairs toward blade end to prevent hand sliding forward.
2. deep finger index notch to lock hand into blade and prevent finger sliding forward.
3. pinky hook to aid draw and lock hand in.
4. contoured with swells into the finger and palms to help prevent twisting in grip.

The blade to handle ratio should be balanced.

Strong, reliable lock. Lock release should be recessed so it can't be accidently disengaged.

Sharp, of course.

Pocket clip. Not shiny. Bead blast or coat.
designed for deep pocket carry. Low profile.


Some examples to examine for these features are:
EDI Genesis
Spyderco Starmate
Benchmade 710
REKAT Carnivour
Crawford Kasper Fighting Folder

Some fixed blade knives to examine are:
Benchmade Nimravus Cub
Emerson Police Utility Knife
Polkowski Companion
Nealy Pesh-Kabz


[This message has been edited by Damon (edited 19 June 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Damon (edited 19 June 1999).]
IMHO, "tactical" is a marketing term used to cash in on current ELU interest in knives with supposed self-defense or military applications. The consumer is a fickle beast, and like any product cycle, it will be interesting to see how long the tactical trend lasts and what's next.

I have seen some poorly designed knives that a maker/manufacturer labels as tactical in an effort to increase sales. Where form has completely replaced function. To me, this is a sign that the cycle may be reaching its peak.

Ultimately it's the user that makes a knife, or any tool, tactical.

Marion is correct in that it is a can of worms, but one can that I would like to explore thoroughly (if your up to it).

I am also interested in what this "tactical folder" will be used for. The impression that I get from comments is that it is expected to perform in some type of combat. With what? other humans, animals, extreme weather conditions, fire, spy vs spy ???

Will you have to dig a hole or build a shelter with your "tactical folder"?

Do we want our "Tactical Folder" to be legal to carry?

Sorry for the prod, but inquiring minds want to know, and I find the forumites don't seem to be timid about prodding me on the Spyderco forum.
A "tactical knife" can be anything from a single-purpose commando dagger to a Leatherman Tool.

Restricting the discussion to folders with a single locking blade, I would call it a "tactical folder" if it can do work or damage under abusive conditions.

Probably work, mostly, though "tactical" implies some sort of adversary out there. A "tactical folder" probably should not show reflective surfaces, at least in its carry position.

What is "pure tactical" may be in the eye of the beholder. A Benchmade Stryker may be a fighting knife to one customer, or a carpentry knife to a customer of mine who is a carpenter.


[This message has been edited by James Mattis (edited 19 June 1999).]
Working from the Webster dictionary I find two definitions of tactical. One being very militant and dealing strictly with the battle front. This would be the one that most despisers of the term "tactical" will sight for thier arguments against the term. For this exercise I prefer the second definition:
of or relating to small scale actions serving a larger purpose; made or carried out with only a limited or immediate purpose in view; adroit in planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose
With this in mind I believe a a tactical folder should have.....

1) a deep concealment factor, (uh, pocket knife?) with...
2) quick deployment and presentation. (Commanderish or maybe a kydex rig with opening on the draw)
3) a very sturdy lock up (Sebenza)
4) sturdy blade (several come to mind) with.....
6) maximum edge presentation (the Genghis fighter, Commander)
5) a full, positive grip and feel (styled G10 or linen)
6) no markings (sterile) and....
7) appropriate concealment color (options should be offered)
8) free knife fighting system training classes with all expense paid travel and hotel/meal accommodations

I tried to do this with out looking at the others, I just looked and I think SB and I are on the same page. I like what he has said.


[This message has been edited by RadarMan (edited 19 June 1999).]
The guantlet has been thrown.

Tactical to me means more practical than anything else. It means utilitarian.

Let's look at the Goddard for the purpose of this discussion.

The integral gaurd and rear expansion along with a blade shape make it useful.

Useful means useful.

Mostly I am going to use it to open letters, cut cord and cellophane, thread, help me in various outdoor chores.

But it's usefulness also makes it tactical, given a conflict that becomes physical, I have no doubts that it will hold up. When was the last timme I had to open somebody up, never. But what is the Bot Scout motto?

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at

"A journey of a thousand miles begins but with a single step" Lao-Tzu

The exercise of trying to define the word "tactical" as applied to our folding knives, while an interesting way to pass the time, compells me to express a concern. The gun collectors, hobbyists, enthusiasts are embroiled in an ugly, nasty, political fight for their very freedom to own, sell, and trade guns. Part of the long range strategy of gun opponents is to try and expand what can be classified as a "military" weapon (aka tactical), and take it out of the hands of the citizen. Let's not do their work for them when it comes to knives and tell these people which of our knives are "military, tactical" so they can help themselves to this already fragile right.

These people are truly scary and they don't need our help.

BTW, there's no such thing as a "tactical folding knife"
I guess nobody liked my first definition, so here is another "stab" at it. A tactical folder should fit in with other tactical gear. Therefore it has to be black and have velcro and cordura nylon. Its gotta look cool and the Navy Seals must have bought some, even if it is only to test it. It needs to be overdesigned and heavy. Price is no object. It needs a light attachment. I recommend the Photon light. An easily deployable back-up blade should be availible if the primary blade becomes non-functioning. A sling is required to hold the knife to the operator so it won't be lost during violent methods of entry and during rappelling. It has to work in jungle, artic, and marine environments. Some operators prefer salt-water environments, some prefer high-altitudes, the knife should work in all environments. The tactical folder must be able to extract you from aircraft, vehicles, submarines and parachutes with ease. It can be used to disassemble and reassemble a motorcycle. It must be waterproof to 300 meters. It must be able to be used as a chin bar.

Sorry I couldn't resist.

Yes, we have our different definitions of what's "tactical". My is simply a knife, within legal parameters, that will serve in defense against a predator of the two legged persuasion. A gun is better but where I am a legal permit is hard to come by. And the last I look at crime reports, most crime as still being committed by non projectile weapons. So a good folder with a strong lock evens out the playing field a bit. I think a fixed blade gives one a split second more speed but I think awareness gives much more... A folder will therefore do.

If survival is against the forces of man, beast and nature, then I would say a fixed blade of a minimum of 6" inches. This is what I carry in the woods of Maine (plus a shotgun or rifle.)

Jumbi may have it right, except that there are "tacical folders" simply due to the fact that they are marketed and accepted as such. If we want to call them something else then why not? If Benchmade can rename the AFCK to Advanced Folding CAMP Knife then we can rename "Tactical to Practical". We would all be a lot more PC then. Sounds like something for AKTI to tackle. Make a law Sal. "Heretofore all TACTICAL knives shall be called PRACTICAL knives." Violators will be flayed with a P.E.C.K.

Seriously though, according to most of my customers, a "Tactical" knife is one that would likely be used in combat as well as in the field for heavy duty utility work. Therefore it would need to have a stout blade, 3.5" to 5" long, at least 1/8" thick, (a little more would be better, 5/32"). One hand opener. High grade satinles steel, BG42 or ATS34 (CPM440v/420v might be ok. I don't know how good impact resistance or flexability is.)Sabre grind, double bevel, 40 - 45 degree included angle, plain edge or partial serration. Bead blasted micarta, G10 or Aluminum handles. Dull finish on blade or, better yet, black finish (TiALN is best). Tanto or Modified tanto point. Sabre or modified sabre grip to keep the hand from sliding up the blade. Rolling lock. (any other lock is unsuitable for combat). Liners can be titanium or stainles steel. Titanium would be better for weight. Price? No object if it's for serious use.

"Real world" "tactical knives seem to fit this category: Anything with G10, micarta or aluminum scales, Titanium liners, liner lock (mostly), ATS34 blade with a dull, black or satin finish, thumb stud or hole and a pocket clip.

In other words, Sal, much of what you make now fits the category.

Isn't it amazing how 2 cents worth of opinion takes up a quarter's worth of paper???

Mr. Glesser, it's funny you should ask this, as I was about to post the reasoning I've come to as to why the "tactical folder" should not exist.

Let's start with my definition of a tactical folder:

A largish folding knife (blade 3.5" minimum, though I'll allow a bit under for knives like the old BM Brend Talon II) that can be opened with one hand (I exclude switchblades for no reason other than that most are built and used as toys and have long been outdone for speed by holes and studs). The purpose - which is more important than the size, sahpe or materials - is as a functional tool that can perform a variety of tasks well beyond the duty of the traditional pocket knife AND that is well designed for emergency use as a weapon. Basically read "Patches" Watson's reasoning behind his design of the M.o.D. Trident and you have a good idea what I expect in a "tactical" folder. Tool first, but a decent weapon as well.

For several weeks now I've been thinking long and hard about your statement that a knife that will serve as a weapon should NEVER be used for utility because it must be razor-edged and ready at all times. My large folders were always carried this way because I always had a less pricy, more people-friendly folder to do the real work, but I never understood why this should be until your comment. I've decided that I completely agree, and my "primary carry" won't ever touch anything more than my mail or a training target again.

Given this reasoning, the "tactical" folder becomes the worst possible idea, a genuine danger to anyone who intends their knife to serve as a weapon in emergency defense! The last thing you want in such a knife is a utility piece that you will dull and wear out with daily tasks and won't be ready should you need it.

For this reason I propose that anyone who agrees with my definition of a "tactical" folder should immediately abandon the concept behind such a piece. That doesn't mean that existing "tactical" folders aren't good defensive folders OR good utility folders (some are one, some are both, a few are neither), but we should not discuss them as something that does both duties simultaneously. No more "tactical" folders!!!



(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
I consider the worth of a "tactical folder" it's ability to function as a defensive weapon without sacrificing utility. If you want a knife strictly for defense get a Civillian, at the least a knife with properly ground serrations.
If however a person doesnt carry 2+ knives at all times it is neccesary to have some basic features to cover both.

3.5-4 inches (preferably not hollow ground)
A high grade stainless steel or coated tool steel blade
A shape appropriate to the knifes primary task
(usually with some belly in the blade for general purpose tasks, a sheepsfoot or reverse curve for those who use the knife primarily for cutting rope or an EMT cutting seatbelts)
G-10 or bead blasted aluminum to provide adequate grip and strength
If G10 it must be really thick or have dual liners+have clip screws going into liner or SS inserts.
The design of the handle must have good ergonomics and retention characteristics, as well as good indexing
(a MUST for a defensive knife)
Ambidexterous opening via Spyderco hole or dual thubstuds.
If thumbstuds,preferably butting up against handle when fully open so they dont get in the way.
Lock- must be easy to maintain (not to sensitive to lint or grit)
Must be reliable(long term service)
Must be safe(if its a locking liner then it should be recessed, The new locks should be excellent however)
Metal clip- as much as I liked those molded in clips for ease of use with running shorts Metal ones wont break and can generally be removed if desired. A good stainless steel or Titanium like the MT clips are the only way to go. The clip should be fairly stiff as so to prevent accidental loss.
The knife should lend itself toward personal modification. (ie:no spline screws) Thus allowing the ELU to fit the knife to his/her needs. The warrantee does not concern me here as anyone who would dissasemble and modify a folder should know what they are doing before hand, if it fails because of this it is their fault and the factory shouldn't need to bother with them.
Another important feature would be the different factory configurations availible as far as design and materials go. This will give the consumer a better chance to get the knife that they need instead of that companys "tactical model".Options should at least include blade seration patterns.
Hi Sal,

For me, tactical implies self defense. I always carry at least one knife that is strictly for that purpose and at least one other for utility. In an emergency a "tactical" blade can serve as a utility blade, but I don't want to implicitly trust a utility blade where someone's life may be at stake (and sometimes the only difference between the two is that one gets used and the other doesn't). That being said, in a folder, I like a 4" blade of decent steel. A good grippable handle, probably G10, that is slightly curved for retention, secure lock, low profile, quick to open, and scary sharp. A 5-6" fixed blade is probably better, but not as practical, for me. If I lived where wilderness survival was a bigger potential problem those parameters would change, but finding food, water, and shelter is not too difficult in Dallas.