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utility knives vs. "tactical" for defense


knife law moderator
Dec 25, 1998
I started a thread in the Spyderco forum about the Wegner for defensive purposes. Joe Talmadge resonded, "In my more cynical moments, I sometimes think that purpose-built working knives are often better defensive knives than purpose-built tactical knives. In a work knife, often the designer pays real attention to ergonomics that are secure even when wet, edges that really cut, etc. Whereas sometimes tactical knives favor strength over cutting ability, and cool looks above everything.
Let's ask another question: for what possible reason would the Wegner not be great for defensive use? Because the ergonomics are exceptional? Because the edge geometry is for great cutting? Because the whole thing is built solidly? It's a fine choice. If I weren't allergic to liner locks, I'd get one myself!"

I agree with Joe. I think he hit the nail on the head. Like I said earlier, I tend to prefer knives that will handle utilitarian tasks. Lets face it how often are any of us going to be in a defensive situation where we use a knife? Hopefully never. Of course it pays to be prepared, both mentally and physically. I try not to walk around in condition white. It does seem that knives specifically made and labeled as "tactical" arent very ergonomic. It seems that knives designed as utilitarian are designedin a way that makes them good defense knives. I think this could fuel an interesting debate.


[This message has been edited by shootist16 (edited 07 September 1999).]
I very recently acquired a large plain edge Wegner and I was sitting and pondering this very same point last night. A bit uncanny.
The more I ananlyzed the knife, the more apparent it became to me that this knife would fill a "tactical"/self defense role very nicely.
It has a continuous curve along the entire length of the edge for slashing, the point comes quite close to dead center on my speciman, it has an outstanding choil/guard, the liner is stout and it locks up extremely securely, the blade is nice and thick with a high hollow grind, deploying is easily accomplished, the G-10 scales afford a non-slip grip, wet or dry.
All in all, I think this would serve for self defense/"tactical" purposes quite nicely thank you very much!
I'll bet some of you see things I don't about this knife. If so, ring in so I can learn more.

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

Please read topic: Tactical Design Input-Update!
I make mostly hunting knives and was on a mission to create a mean looking "TACTICAL" knife. I posted the original topic to get ideas on what the experts looked for in a knife like that. The responses realy suprised me and openned my eyes! Practical and utilitarian won out over Radical looking! I wound up with a blade design that should cut alomost as well as one of my small hunters. It just has a little stronger point and smaller hollow grind. The handle is about what I would use on a hunter with a little bit added for blade retention.
The guys more or less said, make it a usable knife that you could defend yourself with if needed!!! In addition to my new design based on the Blade Forum input, I'm going to put G10 handles on my medium hunter and put it in a Kydex sheath!!! Might even bead blast it!!!!!
My Advanced Folding CAMP Knife does all my labor intensive work. I keep an older Advanced Folding COMBAT Knife in the other pocket for self defense use.
That is why I enjoy carrying my "tactical" Sebenza, and my Shadow IV. Both are designed for utility, yet I trust them 100% to help me cut me out of any difficult situation. Either utility or self defense.

Besides, aren't there any legal benefits for carrying utility knife over a 'mean looking tactical folder'?

[This message has been edited by Mr Blonde (edited 08 September 1999).]
When you stop and really think about it, how can something be tactical if it isn't practical? My favorites are Benchmade's 710 and my just delivered Pat Crawford/Kasper Neck Knife. I plan to post a review on it soon.

Knowledge without understanding is knowledge wasted.
Understanding without knowledge is a rare gift - but not an impossibility.
For the impossible is always possible through faith. - Bathroom graffiti, gas station, Grey, TN, Dec, 1988

AKTI Member #A000831

well I'm just burnt out on the whole "tactical thing" sure I buy a few, (remember the whole survival knife thing in the 80s) but now I just want a knife that feels good in my hand and it is just useable for anything.
To me a knife that feels so good in your hand and has such a geat blade shape, would be good for just about any type of cutting needs a person would run into. With such a user friendly knife, it only makes sense to me that it would be a great knife to defend yourself with if the occasion was to arise. When I got my first Wegner I soon started carrying it most of the time, because it felt so good in my hand, and does such a great job of cutting, and I can rely on it to do the job in an emergency. Dennis if you get a Wegner for yourself, you might think about getting a couple Wegner Jrs for the two little Jrs in your household, just a suggestion.
Chris, Top of Texas Knives

Hey, the most commonly employed tactical knife is the ordinary kitchen knife.

For a long time I have been saying that a tactical knife is any knife that is fairly strong, cuts efficiently, is fast and simple to deploy, and has a good secure grip.

Any knife that you can employ quickly is better then a knife you can't. I usually carry a CS 4" Clip Voyager as my main blade. I can deploy this knife very fast and it is always sharp and has great ergonomics. And I guarantee I could do as much damage as any 4" tactical folder could. Basically I find utility knives better then defensive folders, because I, like most of you cut way more boxes then people.
I have always maintained that the qualities that would make a folder truly suitable for "Tactical" applications are the same qualities that would make it a versatile utility knife.

Unfortunately there are a lot of bad designs that are accepted because many customers don't feel that they are expert enough to argue with the maker. I feel that is true for all types of knives but it may be more of a factor for "Tacticals".

IMO: If it doesn't have the qualities that would make me want to carry it and use it every day it is not a great design.
For the sake of playing devil's advocate, there are some distinctions I'd make between the two roles.

Utility knife - secure sheath, versatile grip
Defensive knife - versatile sheath, secure grip.

What I'm saying is that on a utility knife I want a belt sheath that stresses holding the knife from falling out under any circumstances and protecting it from scratches and dings. A defensive knife's sheath should stress a better carry position for concealment (or several) and rapid access. I want a handle on a utility knife that supports lots of grips for different situations and uses. On a defensive knife (note that I think this is different from "fighter") I'd prefer a handle that offers one extremely secure grip that I can index quickly and which won't slip under heavy impacts.

Also, I'd prefer a steel that has good edge-holding on utility knife. This doesn't mean diddly on a defensive knife, so I'd prefer a steel (or heat-treatment) that places toughness paramount.

I'm not saying that some knives don't fill both roles well, but there are different attributes I look for (and design for), and making a knife pull double-duty risks compromise.


[This message has been edited by Corduroy (edited 08 September 1999).]