Let's talk about neck knives

Apr 15, 1999
We're heavily into a fad here, folks, and I'd like some opinions all around. Now, by saying "fad" I don't mean that the neck knife craze is a bad thing, but I do mean the market has expended rather rapidly, they are very hot right now, and I predict that another 2-4 years will see this decline. What interests me is that there are two distinct sides to neck knife marketing and I'd like to hear folks' thoughts on them.

Here are the sides and my views on them (you knew I'd insert my views, right?):

Neck knives for utility - For some reason, humans have neither sharp claw nor prominent tooth. When you get down to it, a human without a knife can barely open the mail. A neck knife provides the only way I know of to carry a knife 24-7 in any state of dress (including your birthday suit) - thus fixing nature's oversight. Yeah, when dressed you probably have a knife that's handier or better suited to most tasks, but a neck knife lets you always have a little something sharp. Such a knife is usually quite small, utility-oriented, fairly water-proof, and has a sheath that's comfy and secure even when asleep.

Neck knives for defense - Where can you carry a knife that will hardly ever get found in a cursory search? Neck knives offer the ability to discreetly carry a decent-sized fixed-blade (or about any folder) and have it available to either hand as well. The knife is generally designed primarily for stabbing and may have little or no utility. Water-proofing and comfort are less important than above because 24-7 wear isn't intended.

OK, so I love the 24-7 sharp-thing concept but I think the defense aspect is bogus.

A neck knife cannot be worn openly in most situations, and if it could I'd rather have a belt sheath that's more secure and faster to get at. I could conceal my neck sheath and only take it out when I sensed trouble, but in that case I'd be better off palming the knife anyhow.

Some folks have suggested that I leave my shirt partly unbuttoned or pull it up with my off hand to get at the knife. Here's my problems with that:

A) I don't want to look like a hobo. I button my shirts and tuck them in.

B) That off hand is the one I expect to be using to ward off an attack or grab my assailant while I get my knife.

C) If I were a woman, this is hardly practical. Modesty doesn't mean much in a defensive situation, but it is a concern at other times.

D) Come on folks, this still isn't "fast" compared to a well-rigged IWB or armpit-carry fixed-blade, or a clipped Spydie or Commander.

Now, I do agree that the neck is a good place for a "holdout" piece, but that's very different than a true rapid-access defensive piece.

So, in short, I feel there are really two totally separate classes of neck knives that haven't been well distinguished in the market, and one of them is selling on misguided notions of defense. But I may well be wrong, and I'd like to hear what you all think. Please discuss.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
Well, Corduroy, I think you hit the nail on the head for sure. You can carry a larger knife in a more accessible place with an IWB sheath, IMHO. I have two neck knives (REKAT Fang and Emerson LaGriffe) and I find myself wearing them a lot, but more because I can than because I perceive a threat I need to defend myself with. They do come in really handy when I am making sheaths and need a sharp object to mark the Kydex with. Rather than digging in pockets and having to take my gloves off, I simply reach up, pull the knife, and let it do its business!

My Custom Kydex Sheath page:
Palmer College of Chiropractic
On Two Wheels


Agree pretty much with your observation. I like the utility of a readily accessible fixed blade. The same blade can be used for "defensive" purposes. But the problems of access of wearing it concealed makes it no better than a folder. However, keeping it the pocket, or in the waistband (with the cord wrapped around belt or belt loop) does make access slightly quicker than a folder in deployment. Frankly, when things are "iffy", I am palming a sharp object anyway, in which case there is little difference in speed of deployment.

Have to say though, that I am becoming quite fond of those cute little fixed blades.

So, do you make any of these?


AKTI #A000356

[This message has been edited by sing (edited 23 September 1999).]
I have the answer to all your reservaions. A knife that can be worn as a neck knife. But when you are in the mood for something different, you can wear it on your belt. Or you can clip it in your suit (inverted) or your boot. The "Patrolman" multi-carry knife just one in a series of back-up knives. Here is a picture.

Lynn Griffith-Tactical Knifemaker
Winner of "Best Tactical Knife" at 1999 PKA show
My website
See my award winning "Spec Ops Tanto" in Gallery 3 of my website
Discounts to Police and Active Duty Military

I believe what you said about the defense aspect of neck knives to be true.
They would be difficult to get to in an emergency situation where your warding off an assailant with one or both hands.
It occurs to me that this is the same problem one would have with a boot knife.
Good ideas in theory, might not be prudent in practice though.
The only practical method of carry for a NK in a self defense situation would be outside the shirt.
This is impractical because that would negate the concealability of the knife and the BG would obviously know it's there, might even make a grab for it and unsheath it before you do. Not a good situation.
The only way I can see this as a viable option would be for you to see the possible upcoming threat and remove the blade in an attempt to gain the upper hand before the BG makes his move on you.
This, as we know, will probably not happen.
Attacks are often ambushes, cancelling your attempt at mounting a pre-emptive(sp?) defense.
I have to agree with you that a neck knife may not be such a great idea for defensive purposes.

If it's stupid but works, then it isn't stupid.

Neck carry is handy in the bush, especially in the winter when wearing lots of layers that make it difficult to get to a belt sheath (see Northern Bushcraft by Mors Kochanski); also in a driftboat, raft or canoe when you're sitting. It's a good place to carry when jogging or x-country skiing. Not too useful for urban carry, though.
If you want to get to a neck knife in a hurry you will not find the buttons on your shirt to be any obstacle at all. You won't even notice they were there. Sometimes the shirt will pop open without even losing the buttons, but if you do lose the buttons ... um ... let's think about priorities here....

I have other thoughts on the subject of neck knives, but I think I've posted all of them already.

-Cougar Allen :{)
Well guys, 99% of the time I'm in a t-shirt and I think I can deploy a neck knife in roughly the same time frame as a folder, equally well with either hand, and with a heck of a lot more surprise factor.

Do it in the same amount of time Sal Glesser deploys a folder and I'll be impressed.

I do worry that this is a "show me" issue where speed is concerned, and I remain a skeptic. Not, I suspect, because I don't understand neck-knife deployment, but because others haven't seen how fast some folders and fixed-blade rigs can be. Maybe I'm wrong... but getting that shirt out of the way seems like one more awkward step than those other methods have. Show me?

I like the 24/7 waterproof idea the best. Which is the best candidate for this? I hear great things about the Woo, will it stand up to 24/7 H2O testing?

"I'm tired of going over this. They're INVESTMENTS!"
Interesting topic. Is this craze only amongst us, or has it hit mainstream yet?

Regardless, I think that neck knives aren't really effective as defensive knives. Especially compared to everything else that we have available to us. I haven't had any training in knife fighting, but I have some observations that I think make sense... For one, deployment is definitely a problem. I don't know about you, but I don't want to have to count on being able to reach under/through buttons to get to a knife that may or may not come out as fast as I need it.
Another issue is size. Is a knife as small as most of the neck knives really going to be effective for defense? If against someone with another knife, you're going to be short on reach, and you can forget blocking. In a neck knife vs. nothing, sure I'd take the neck knife but I wouldn't count on being able to do much with it.

As utility knives, I think these have definite value. For one, it's easy to carry them around wherever you are. As some have pointed out above, you can also get to one more easily than those in belt sheaths if covered in many layers. I think the other examples of advantages like this are also accurate. I also like the ability (if it is available?) of being able to stand up to water pretty well. May not be the strongest steel, but would be useful.

JP Bullivant

Well, I doubt it will be Sal trying to get my wallet and if you give me the thirty year head start that Sal has had to perfect his draw I might be competitive (and if Sal and I happen to be sitting down I just might be able to smoke him now). Secondly, if you are saying that one technique is invalid because someone somewhere has another technique that is faster, then that pretty much disqualifies all techniques. I can't prove it to you, Corduroy, but I proved it to myself against my son who can whip a knife out of his pocket at a pretty good speed. And lastly, if my shirt gets cut "in the act" of deployment, so be it. They are only $5.99 at Wal-Mart.

Well said. You're right, even if one method is faster (and I certainly haven't shown that), it doesn't invalidate others. All you've got to show is that a technique isn't dangerously slow and clumsy, and clearly with a little training a neck knife isn't. Still not my first (or second) choice of carry position for defense, but we all decide based on what we've seen and what we're comfortable with.

I don't find neck knives practical for working in my leather shop. It's nice to have then handy since my knives are always getting covered by something of knocked on to the floor. Bending overt the table a neck knife is annoying or in the way. I now use mostly disposible scalpels which I carefully slip into a leather pouch on my back pocket similar to the AG Russell back pocket pouch.
Drop a scalpel and for some reason it always lands the worse possible way and it's shot.
I consider neck knives more a novelty than useful but being a knife nut it's still a knife and I like em all.
On the utility aspect: I agree with Alberta about the neck knife being useful in kayak or canoe. It isn't as good as having a knife on your PFD though: if you get tangled in a line or a rope in a nasty situation, you may find it difficult to grab your neck knife in a hurry. They do tend to move around and unless you want it swinging around or in the way, you'll tuck it under some article of clothing or gear that you'll have to move;whereas a knife on your pfd is right at hand. However, if you are in the arctic or somewhere else where you are wearing a floater or survival suit, a neck knife is a really effective option.It's what I use, but I haven't seen anyone else do it.
Re defense: I like my sheaths to have another carry option beside straight neck carry; usually inverted for an inside pocket. I also like an inside the pants option. Nealy's system is great. I do think a neck carry can be fast and effective, with training and foresight, but, you really never can predict what situation will present itself. For that matter, it does not thrill me to have a line of any kind around my neck. Of course, you try to use something that will break before it strangles you, but how confident are you that the chain [which I think is safer than any cord, but I can be reeducated on this point] will break when you want it to and not break when you don't want it to?
That applies to both defensive and utility aspects.
I'm more of a fan of IWB carry or hip-pocket jobs like the A.G. Russell just mentioned. I figure if I where going to either: 1) get caught with a totally concealed knife. or 2) have to use a totally concealed knife in a defensive situation...I might as well have a Randall (or whatever) carried IWB. IMHO faster access, more pratical, and wouldn't make much of a wink of difference legally speaking (both are no no's).

Personally, I've tried to speed up my deployment of my neck knives with practice, but after ruining several shirts and nearly eviscerating myself, I'm almost ready to throw in the towel on this method of carry for self defense purposes.
It is an outstanding way to carry a knife for utility purposes, IMO, however, I can deploy a folder or an IWB or belt carried fixed blade faster and without ruining my shirts or exposing my intestines to the fresh air.
I love my neck knives, but I think I'll keep the "just-in-case" blades elsewhere.

Best Regards from your "too clumsy for defensive neck knives" pal,

If it's stupid but works, then it isn't stupid.

Most neck knives are perfect in size for horizontal belt carry. Smart knifemakers should make the sheath usable both ways.
Or even include a removable clip.
I' ll take a small to medium fixed blade mounted on the waist somewhere anyday over a neck knife.

But I feel as long as one recognizes its limitations and practices with it often, then the neck knife can certainly serve as a _backup_ piece. I carry one almost everyday because my dress code allows this. When rolling on my bike(leg powered) to work or during workouts, the neck knife is a viable option for protective purposes. In this case, it may serve as a primary. It is quicker and easier to get to than say a folder which needs to be carried in a pocket or tucked inside my shorts. Then add a pair of gloves on top of that and it starts to get a bit difficult, especially with insulated gloves for winter time!

As for utility purposes, well my neck knives are not designed for that. I' ve found it much more convenient to use a folder than to draw and then needing to resheath a neck knife. That' s my experience.


I personally think that Neck knives are of minimal use for a defensive situation as they are not readily accessible. If you can't draw it on the move, under stress, or while getting the sh-t kicked out of you its not a good choice for a defensive blade. I do think that its an exellent way to carry an extra knife...in conjunction w/ a more readily available fixed blade or folder. Another of my concerns would be legality....but you would have to be in a mighty hairy situation to get caught w/ one. Another aspect that hasn't been mentioned in neck knife carry for the field soldier. If he has to ditch his Ruck and LBE for some reason he still has his Neck Knife and hopefully a folder dummied in a pocket?