Definition of a Tactical Folder?

Corduroy, in response to your post, I am not sure that I agree entirely with you. As I read it, you are opposed to carrying a folder which is used for both utility and self-defense, because of the potential to "dull and wear out" the piece in daily use. Frankly, I enjoy taking care of my knives. I've never had to use a knife hard enough to destroy the edge in one day, and every evening I know I can find time to resharpen whatever damage the day's cutting chores may have done to the edge. As to your comment about wearing out the knife, I think it's difficult to wear out a well-made (e.g. Spyderco or Benchmade) folder, without submitting it to abuse that would be more appropriate to a fixed blade. Additionally, once the pivot loosens permanently, or the blade starts to develop a recurve from too many sharpenings, you've got an excuse to buy a new knife. Finally, if I'm ever in a defensive bladecraft situation, I don't wan't to have to think about what blade I'm drawing, or fumble between two. I want the blade to be in my hand instinctively, and the blade most likely to be so, is the one I'm used to using.

Bearing that in mind, my ideal "tactical knife" would have a blade shaped for both utility and defense. About 4", an appropriate length for both convenient carry, most utility chores, and probably the minimum for a knife which will be used in combat. I'd prefer a non-tanto point. This gives more usable length to the knife's edge, and there are plenty of points which are both delicate enough for fine work, and strong enough for heavy work or combat. A clip point with a straight clip instead of a curving swedge, much like on the Police model would be good, balancing strength and penetration. For the steel, I'd go with something tough, and temper it to favor toughness, rather than edgeholding. Like I said above, I don't mind taking care of my knives, and I'd rather have a knife with a razor sharp edge which occasionally has to be touched up, than a knife which is fragile and a pain to sharpen.

The handle must be extremely ergonomic, able to orient the user's hand to the appropriate opening method, and to help the user retain the knife under slippery conditions, such as in rain, under stress, and when cold. A good example of this is the handle on the Benchmade XL CQC7, with the G10 providing a tough, secure grip, and the overall shape of the handle being a good guide to indexing the handle in the user's grip, while still being comfortable in saber, hammer, reverse and icepick grips.

For the lock, I don't care as long as it's made well. A well-made lock of any type, with the appropriate materials, will always beat a shoddy version of another lock. A lockback or linerlock is fine with me, but I suppose I'd like a rolling lock best. Thanks for sticking with me through this verbose post.
Keeping a knife razor-sharp is like keeping a few bills in your wallet. It's kind of pleasant to visit the bank machine and have it spit out some money for you. It's easy and most days you remember to do it, at least if you've used up the bills you had. But how is it that you always get that flat tire or other emergency need for cash when you have forgotten to fill your wallet or just haven't gotten around to it yet?

That's a real pain. If it's a defensive situation and you haven't sharpened your knife, it's much worse.

If I understood Mr. Glesser, a knife for defense should be razor-sharp. That means as sharp as you can get it. Why? Because your life depends on it and you should have the best edge possible. No matter how good your knife, an edge like that doen't last. I'm not talking about "sharp" the way you like to zip open your mail or go through that box like a laser, I'm talking about wicked, scary, hair-popping sharp.

If you use a "defense" knife for a "utility" task, you are compromising its ability as a defensive weapon - an ability that may already be badly compromised if it is designed primarily with utility in mind. These are two roles we should not be mixing, yet as I see it the entire "tactical" genre has arisen by just such a mixture.

I love "tactical" style knives, much as I hate the buzzword status of the term that describes them. But for a couple of weeks now my belief in the role of these knives has greatly diminished to the point where I think the whole concept may be flawed.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)

Your second post makes it more interesting. The question being what is it and the followup post being what do you do with it and should it be legal.

If those posts open a can or worms, then they're gummy worms!

To me the answer to the 2nd post defines the physical parameters of the 1st post. Form must follow function. If I know what I want it to do, then I can buy or make a knife to do it.

Since this forum has a wide audience of people who do a wide variety of things, not all "tactical folders" will be doing the same things, so not all "tactical folders" will be made the same.

My idea of a "tactical folder" is situational. During normal daily working hours, my "tactical folder" is a working utility knife which is cared for (cleaned and sharpened) on a daily basis. I have the normal knifenut obsession with keeping my carry knives shaving sharp, so this knife is always ready for use. Actually, since I carry several folders for daily use, they all are kept this way. The one I consider my "tactical folder" is the larger one, and is used a lot less than the others. I reserve it for those really big boxes!
This is a bit of a compromise, but seems practical to me.

Now, the other "tactical folder" is the one I carry only on an occassional basis. I have never used it, and don't ever plan on using it. It is there mainly for my own peace of mind - just in case it is needed. This piece is currently the Civilian. I don't need to tell you about it.

My 3rd "tactical folder" is a light duty folder which I carry as backup to my neck knife when I go jogging. The parameters for this one are quite a bit different than for the other 2. I have never used this one either (or the neck knife) and hope I never need to.

If my lifestyle included camping or similar outdoor activities, I would have a 4th "tactical folder" which would be a fixed blade!
I do own some of these, but have never carried them since my family doesn't enjoy camping.

The legal question, I answer by saying - yes if at all possible, but not absolutely yes. Form must follow function and if form demands, then legality is secondary. Sometimes you just roll the dice (although this is a rarity for me).

To sum it up, tactical is situational and demands a variable set of knives. There isn't one to do it all for me. YMMV

God bless.
Lets see...somewhere we got off track, I think, from what Mr. Sal is wanting input on. Do we need to analize the word tactical? Lets just say a knife to carry for self defense...We all know what tactical means, while it is a broad term, I think most of us relate to carrying a knife as a means of protection atleast once in our lives? (depending where you live) Whoa..I can remember reaching to see if my Fallkniven F1 was in my waste when a black bear looked deep into my eyes on the trail..
RUN I said to my wife!!!!All I had was a dragonfly
...But anyway you see my point. I would rather have any type of a knife, than to have read alot about a self defense knifes should be this or that, but any would be better than none...(in certain conflicts) Physical confrontations where an unarmed person is violent...a blade is very handy!!especially if he's a big dude..
So What are the attributes of a tactical knife?
Mine would look something like a:
Sebelitarystargenperrinszabokraitkinzhalmpfcommanderhobbittvielearkansastoothpick!!!!Now thats a complicated knife....actually my favorite is the R.J.McDonald "Sleek Folding Fighter"...440c 57-59 rocwell,4 9/16" blade with 4 1/2" edge, 3"swedge, chisel ground top and bottom,very thick G10 scales, ti liners and finger grooves with side knotches in the scales....$250.00 very nice, a bit large for a folder, but handles very nicely. There is an article on his knives in, (can you believe) "Tactical Knives" May99
Thanx for listening...Bart
Hey its only my opinion!!So run he's got a I'll just get shot tired!!!(just a joke)
Lot of good info here. So obviously "Tactical" has a broad definition, but it seems to be narrowing here. It also seems that the "Tactical Folder" has more to it than just the sum of it's parts. In fact, what I'm hearing, is that "purpose" seems to influence the parts more than previously thought.

Burke - The issue is "Sharp", not how many knives. At Spyderco, we have a kind of slogan; "When you go to buy a drill, you don't want a drill...what you want is a hole. Keep focused on the goal".

If you always have a sharp blade with you, great. If that blade has been used "just a little", then the effectiveness of it's cutting power is effected "just a little".. 25% is more than a little. Yes, any knife is better than no knife in a defensive situation. Awareness is still number one defensive tool.

When I'm strolling around my neighborhood, My "general purpose" Military is acceptable. I, being a knife enthusist, keep it relatively sharp. When I'm strolling through a strange neighborhood in a foreign country, I will more than likely have a Civilian available. (though I have not had occassion to civilize the uncivilized, and hope I never do, there is a certain amount of confidence that the model carries).

Before getting info on this thread, I thought of tactical more like "Mowgli's tooth". Values being; 1) dependable for any situation. Naturally a FB would be best. Most of us can't carry FBs on a regular basis and folders offer more of the "fun" factor. However, making a folder capable of being "dependable in any situation presents far more complicated dynamics.

Keep up the great info. I'm going to try to piece together a definition and a model drawing from this thread.

Okay Sal, you have asked for tactical folder, you shall receive.

I have ben bugging you directly and indirectly for Endura in Micarta with CPM 440 for a while, or maybe in g-10 , but I have been carrying an Endura for the last eight years, before I was aware of such a term as "tactical folder."

I use it every day so like the silat people try to make the knife, it is as though it were a part of me. I like the serrations because they come into usefulness every day and I have found this to be true in house rehab work, from slicing old carpet to using the hump to open pint cans, to eating lunch, t making sure the tools stayed in the van once or twice, nothing overt but the knowledge of what is there helps the confidence out a bit.

I have used it in warehouse work, for everything from cardborad to steel banding. I have used it in the usual boating and outdoor chores, and it goes wih me when I run. I practice martial applications with it almost daily and it goes mith me to work every day as a real estate and mortgage broker.

Bearing the above in mind, I wil give you my parameters for "tactical":

The blade is the same as the Endura in size and configuraion, as this is an all around good size for both the utility work we all engage in as well as the unthinkable. Should you want a six inch blade, that is fine, but get a fixed blade so tht the hangle is of a manageable size. Vaquero users disreagard as you have an unusual handle to work with. I like serrations as they give me a longer and more agressive cutting edge.

The handle should have enough thickness and depth to fil the hand in either a delicate probing grip used for picking splinters or a very agressive grip used for killing rabid wolves or trapping the arms of zombie mummies armed with bowie knifes. This knife may one day be called upon to defend the user's life agaist a large dog, humans, and should we be worried about bears or rhinos we are all beyond the scope of this tool anyway. I would like to see the handle made rather than Zytel from either G-10 or Micarta, electrical grade, with a rough texture and grooves in the handle either in the vein of the Applegate Fairbarn knives or running from the spine side of the handle to the edge side. This will provide all of the handle retention I require.

It will of course be clipped tip up to my pocket and shoud anyone want a lefty, it will be manufactured that way. Not to discrimninate, but I am a righty and can drop my endura in my left front pocket and retrieve and open from the left easily with my left hand. The clip on the 98 endura is not at all to my liking, and metal clips tear up pants in a heartbeat, should the pants not be Carharts or Levi's. Make the clips of spring stel and cover them in smooth Micarta along the same conceptual lines as the earpieces on a pair of eyeglasses.

Oh yeah, make the lock on mine an enhanced rocker bar. Keep the weight down so those of us who are not okay to wear jeans every day can carry the knife and not draw atention to it. My Escalator will never be carried in my pocket due to its weight.

I don't realy care if you build it from AUS 8, ATS 34/55 or CPM wondersteel, but the enhanced handle I describe, the clip, the same size and serrations will make this perhaps your ultimate tactical. Keep the hole (of course) and this knife will survive one of the most important tactical considerations I can see, that of legal acceptability. Don't black the blade or give it a name like "the disemboweler" so that it truly presents as a tool, giving me that tactical edge I need when presenting a professional image on a daily basis.


[This message has been edited by Parker (edited 20 June 1999).]
Verily, brethren and cistern, I was only gone for two days and now I find you're constructing a golden calf -- I can't leave you unsupervised at all!

Most of you aren't really talking about a tactical knife at all, though; you're talking about a knife a civilian could carry for defense. A folding knife can be made to work for that purpose by carrying it open in a pocket sheath -- it still won't be as ergonomic or as strong as a real knife, but at least it'll be accessible. If you glue some fine sandpaper to one side of the sheath and a strip of leather impregnated with tripoli compound to the other you can ensure it never gets dull. Make the sheath to cover part of the handle and you'll find resheathing much easier.

-Cougar Allen :{)
For military purposes, except among a few specialists, a "tactical knife" will probably do everything but close quarters combat, since armies issue rifles to keep the enemy from getting that close.

For civilian self-defense, a non-reflective finish typical of military gear is probably not a factor, since civilian defensive knife use would not involve sneaking around in the dark with naked steel. A high degree of strength and reliability would be a must, not to mention that vorpal edge.

The idea of carrying a knife or mundane cutting duty and another knife with a pristine razor edge for self defense with deadly force, God forbid, has a couple of disadvantages.

For one thing, daily use gives one all the more familiarity with the tool and the way it cuts.

For another, if, when the authorities are sorting things out, it comes out that you were carrying that unused vorpal blade exclusively as a weapon, that may be interpreted as evidence that you were looking for trouble. Not a good tactic for surviving the legal system.

Perhaps what the market needs is a better truly pocketable sharpening tool. Gatco and Lansky sell what look like short medium-grit Sharpmaker triangle rods, with rubber caps at either end, but they do not have the precision of a Sharpmaker. A good pocketable sharpener would go a long way toward keeping a razor edge on a using knife.

Oh Cougar, how nice it would be for us to in fact be able to carry what we would prefer, in my case a MP5SD3 so as not to disturb the locals, but it ain't gonna happen. I would in the same vein like to carry a hush puppy SOCOM, but since I am a civilian under the jurisdiction of the state of IL, even my standard gunshop issue USP is a no-no and alo under most circumstances my Remington 870. we cake eating civvies unfortunately wind up wit the laws we deserve sometimes, so we then have to exist under them. Golden Calf my A$$, our tactics such as they are must be different than the boys in green, so our tools my be as well.

My daily mission requirements invariably involve the following: dealing wiht nervous customers, suburban housewives and soccer moms, tenants more accustomed to having cutlery used for dinner consumption than gathering, and account reps whom would often-times love to skewer for promising A and delivering A minus some hidden intangible quality that keeps my deal from closing. Should I bring a Tactical Knife to the party that belongs mor on LBE eating MRE than a discreet folder that opens quickly but also looks at home with either dockers or dress civvies, I am going to put myself at a huge tactical disadvantage with clients and also the local fuzz (serve and incarcerate). My tactics are by necessity of the "Hide in Plain Sight" variety. I know I can hack and dice easier with a big knife, hih is why I have it in the briefcase or car ( currently something like five i the car) but like yourself I have to unfortunately deal not only with my personal desire to complete the missio successfully with a minimum of dmage to myaself, but also without incurring the wrath of my commanding directorates for breaking the standing orders of the day. Sure a Gerber MKII is better tha Spyderco for the mission you infer, but do you want to face a jury of middle aged housewives too stupid to avoid jury duty while being painted as a psychotic killer carrying a knife designed for assassination by a nuts DA looking for headlines? Such is the world we live in.

Hope this helps you understand where I am coming from.
"Tactical" in my book means: "won't let you down".

My Calypso jr is one of the best knives I have ever used-but it's not "tactical" for me, because I cannot trust it not to go dull or be damaged in heavy (and sometimes unsuitable for a knife) tasks

I don't own a Rescue, but just to illustrate the above point, I would consider it much more "tactical", as tame as it looks with its boy-scout image. The serrations will keep cutting and cutting without resharpening, there is no danger of snapping the point, and there is nothing else to go wrong.

Of course, clip and hole are considered standard!!!!


P.S. If you could only bring back the older Bob T models, you wouldn't be looking far...
I don't think my message is getting across.... Verily, brethren and cistern, I am not suggesting carrying a tactical knife around the city to defend yourself with. A Simonich Cetan or a Madpoet Minipuukko will do nicely, or a Wedge or a Mosquito or many other real knives, and I wouldn't even curse you with the dreaded Curse of the Cougar if you decide to carry a Spyderco Native for the purpose as long as you carry it properly, in a pocket sheath. Do you think those account reps and soccer moms will notice they didn't hear a click when you got your knife out? Try holding your other hand behind your back and snapping your fingers ... they'll never know the difference.

-Cougar Allen :{)

[This message has been edited by Cougar Allen (edited 20 June 1999).]

I guess I'm not getting your point about sheathing your knife. The advantage I see in a fixed blade is size and strength. Unfortunately, that is at the expense of concealabilty. I'm not convinced that a sheathed knife would be significantly faster than a folder to deploy (with practice) Wasn't it Mr. Hsu(?) who could retrieve a Cold Steel folder from a back pocket and place it into a target in under (if I remember correctly) one second? At that speed the bad guy will be hearing the click on his way to the floor.

And James, I differ with you on carrying a dedicated defense blade. Since there is no good way to practice how a blade will cut flesh during an adrenaline soaked frenzy (if it's sharp I assume pretty well), familiarity with handling the knife itself is what's important. That can be practiced.

As to the legal issue, while I concede that it is a litigious and confused society we live in, that will be my last concern at the moment of truth. And honestly, if it became a necessity, I'd do the time before allowing someone to hurt my family. But then again, I live in Texas where you (at this writing, anyway) are still allowed to protect yourself.

I'm by no means a knife, martial arts, or tactical expert, but I have pondered these things at length over the years and this is what makes sense to me.


I guess I am not looking to assassinate someone. At the point he hears a "click", I don't care because I am at my last resort. If he backs off from the "click", FINE -- I am splitting. If he doesn't, it's his skills and speed against mine. These are more important than whatever "stealth" or momentary advantage from it in a head to head.

Here are some additional ideas for a tactical folder:

The lock should stand repeated opening with a wrist snap. I practice deploying a folder 5 to 10 times daily. The lock should be able to handle this.

The blade should have a 1/2" choil near the pivot end. If the lock fails and the blade folds then it will not cut the index finger. The index finger will block the blade from cutting additional fingers. Just in case the lock fails.

Trainers with dull blades should be made. For practice and to test the knife by actually striking things.

Price should be between $100 to $120. If its too expensive who will want to use it. What if you lose it?


Open in a pocket sheath . . . I don't know about other jurisdictions, but here in California, which is a large jurisdiction, the law places a high value on that extra second to open the knife. The legislative history is clear that the object of the "concealed dirk or dagger" provision is to prevent surprise attacks, and they want the other guy to have a chance to react before he's cut. No, they're not thinking about the other guy who is in the middle of trying to do you in.

A folder in its folded condition here is a non-issue in the Penal Code. A folder carried discretely in its locked-open position is the same as a fixed blade, and is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how the DA decides to write it up.

It also might be evidence that you were forseeing trouble when you dressed yourself to go out. Now that is in fact what this thread is about, but the "non-knife" general public, including a bunch of potential jurors, consider a knife, when seen as a weapon, a terribly nasty and subversive weapon, more so than a handgun. No, it isn't logical, and yes, self defense with deadly force in the gravest extreme is a good thing. But, as I preach to the choir here, I must advise discretion amid the heathen multitude.


[This message has been edited by James Mattis (edited 20 June 1999).]
Another thought . . . Spyderco Military.

The martial artists in the house can elaborate or correct me, but the big blade hole and fairly high hump on that tip-down liner lock allow the knife to come open by a down-snap of the handle in the midst of the draw, so that it's ready to cut, if not poke, by the time it comes between you and the threat.


I would take tactical folder to mean a folding knife appropriate for use in a military or police operation. But taking it further, I think the adjective tactical if not being applied to something like troop movement is downright silly. How about a strategic folder? If you're choosing a knife (or knives) to use during a military or police operation, you're going to choose the tools that best suit the environment you expect to be in. Fact. If your role is that of pilot, your idea of a tactical folder is probably an automatic with a fully serrated blade and a sheepsfoot point for cutting yourself out of webbing, parachute cord, etc. An EOD guy might prefer a tiny little plainedge folder for his tactical role. Before MREs, probably the most important tactical folder was the P-38 can opener

I think Damon hit the nail on the head when he said it should be black, look cool and the Navy SEALs ought to have ordered some. In other words, it's a load of marketing crap you'd do best to steer your company clear of.

Hope this helps.

I spent several hours pondering this subject and wrote a several hundred word answer that I wisely decided not to send. Looks like most people equate tactical with fighting. If tactical means cops or military, then it should mean utilitarian...something like the Buck 110 or the old brass bolstered Gerbers. It should be overly strong,big pivot, steel liners, large, textured, contoured grip, strong lockup, and one hand opening and closing. Unfortunately this would mean heavy, bulky and sheath carry. A lot of people would like this but most forumites probably wouldn't. I don't know anything about knife fighting, but it would seem you already have a good line for that. I thnk something along the lines of the SERE folde with a 440V blade and a rolling lock would make a good tactical folder. JMO,FWIW

[This message has been edited by bill boyd (edited 21 June 1999).]
How about a click silencer?

If you want to make a proper line of Tactical Folders, why not make six or so knives specialized for various duties one might encounter during a military or police operation? Then you can say stuff like "We're still not quite sure what those other companies actually expect you to do with their 'tactical folders'. We understand that in a tactical envirnoment there are many uses for a knife and one size does not fit all, so we'd like to present our line of specialty tools designed specifically for the rigors of the tactical environment. Not fighting Klingons."

Don't forget the black Ti blade option, fancy Kydex sheath and to ship a box of 'em over to Coronado