Top Five Folding Knives

Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.

Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:

We’re gun people, but if we gun people are anything, we’re also knife people. And if there’s any tool that virtually every one of us is carrying, it’s a folding knife. We carry one because it’s a compact way to carry a blade. No, it’s not as strong as a fixed blade knife (Check out my Top Five Fixed-Blade Knives), but probably strong enough for most day-to-day tasks. And it’s a decent self-defense tool if that’s all you’ve got. Here are my top five…

Spyderco Native 5 FRN

You can recognize a Spyderco by the iconic thumb hole. The Native 5 FRN is no exception.

There’re always several Spyderco knives in my collection and there’s usually one clipped to my pocket. When it comes to daily-use knives, I’m not into glitz and innovation but I am into durability and simplicity. After all, a pocket knife is a tool. When I want an everyday knife that can handle a wide range of cutting tasks with utter excellence, I love using this Spyderco Native.

Frankly, it’s look and feel hearkens back to the days when I carried either a Delica or Endura. Great knives! The Native 5 FRN has been around since 1997 and in its current iteration since 2012.

The FRN in the name means the handle is made from fiberglass-reinforced nylon, which is as strong as it is light in weight. How light? 2.5 oz. to be exact. Overall length measures 6.95 inches; the blade measures 2.95 inches and is made from CPM S35VN and is 0.125 inches thick.

Best feature (I mean, besides the excellent steel and FRN handle) is the back lock mechansim, one of the best I’ve used. The pocket clip is perfect and you can go tip up or down, right or left with it. Made in Golden, Colorado, USA. Retails for $144.95.

Grayman Dua

Nothing fancy about the looks of the Grayman Dua. But who buys a knife for looks?

Also made in the US of A, this Grayman Dua offers little in terms of technical sophistication or innovation but tons of durablity and simplicity, my two favorite features in a folding knife.

The .165-inch-wide flat-ground blade is CPM 20CV heat-treated to 59 RC. Sharp and durable, at 3.25 inches long, its dimensions and weight are just right for simple, daily tasks that occasionally jump into the category of stubborn or more heavy-duty cutting. A few more stats: The knife measures 7.5 inches overall and 4.25 inches folded. In other words, just right for easy pocket carry or clipped on a pocket (tip-up only).

Deploying the Grayman Dua requires a push on a thumb stud, which yields a smooth swing-open and an audible “click” when the liner lock engages. And does it engage! It takes a healthy push to move the lock away and fold the blade back down, which I’m fine with because I know the locked-open blade will stay locked open.

Grayman’s stonewashed blade sports a weathered look but is quite smooth. There’s no fear of ruining it; one side of the handle is titanium, the other is carbon fiber or G10 over titanium. In other words, tough. Retails for $295.

Emerson ETAK

The Emerson ETAK allows you to “wave” open the blade.

A little more on the bigger and heavier duty side of folding knives, the Emerson Tactical Assault Knife (ETAK) sports G10 handles, a titanium lock and a 3.9-inch 57-59RC 154 CM blade. (Overall length is 9 inches.)

The main feature of the ETAK is how you can go from closed to deployed: Pull the blade out manually, use the thumb stud, or – my favorite feature – let the blade’s “Wave” deploy as you draw it out of your pocket.

See that forward-pointing little…well…wave on the top of the blade, just over the thumb stud? At first it looks like an impediment to any sort of tactical use, but when the knife is clipped to the inside of your pocket, upon drawing it out, the wave catches on your pocket and deploys the blade.

It’ll take a bit of practice to nail it, but once you do, you actually eliminate the “open the knife” step from the deployment process, saving precious time. The only drawback to this knife is the position of the pocket clip which keeps the knife riding high and a bit more exposed than others, but then again, it’s keeping more knife out and exposed in order for you to grasp it firmly to deploy it quickly. Retails for $249.95.

CRKT Outrage

Of the knives on this list, the CRKT Outrage is the most affordable.

Compared to the other knives in this list, the CRKT Outrage falls on the “lower” end of the spectrum in terms of price. But that doesn’t mean it’s a low-end knife.

As a Ken Onion design, it’ll impress you with its features and likely earn a place in your daily rotation of pocket folders. Worth noting immediately are good-looking and functional 6061 aluminum handles, the flipper opener, and the IKBS Ball Bearing Pivot System.

In other words, this knife is great to hold and easy to deploy. Measuring 4.67 inches closed and weighing only 4.5 ounces, the Outrage is anything but heavy yet still robust for most cutting tasks. The blade is 8Cr13MoV, 58-60 RC, and measures 3.19 inches in length. It stays in the open position via a liner lock and when it is exposed, you see

It stays in the open position via a liner lock and when it is exposed, you see it’s unique shape. This shape gives the plain edge the ability to cut efficiently no matter how you approach the cut — from the front or back. Retails for $69.99.

SOG Twitch II

Humble design but the Twitch II is functional as all get-out.

Rounding out my Top Five Folding Knives is the most unassuming, low-key, dare I say – boring – knife of list, yet it is the one I carry more than any other. Meet the SOG Twitch II.

It’s little, tough, and just enough. Weighing only 2.6 ounces and measuring 6.2 inches overall, the Twitch II sports a 2.65-inch AUS-8 steel blade (only 0.1 inches thick) with 57-58 RC.

This simple, drop-point blade can be sharpened again and again to somewhere between “wicked” and “razor” and easily handles daily cutting tasks in home, office, and even some outdoors. The handle is 6061 aluminum and the pocket clip robust.

Best feature of the Twitch II is its unfailing assisted opening mechanism, operated via a flipper on the back of the blade. Flick, snap, it’s open. And it stays open via a lock back system which has never let up in several years’ use. Retails for $71.00.

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  • Tim Carroll July 6, 2020, 6:28 pm

    Ontario Rat-1 is a steal for the money and a GREAT EDC folder.

  • Rammy February 26, 2018, 2:51 pm

    Nice blog.
    Great list of top five folding knives.
    Thank you for sharing.Rammy
    DMA Inc.

  • Auggie Will September 13, 2017, 11:55 pm

    Carry what you feel comfortable with.
    I have been carrying an Emerson CQC-7BW since he first started up many years ago.
    He is a retired Seal who makes a first rate folder!
    The wave works great + it’s all black.

  • wayln September 5, 2017, 10:07 am

    I love the Case Shark tooth , I carried a Buck 110 for many years , found a shark tooth 1978 model never looked back, like the way it feels , stays sharp Buck 124 is my fixed blade pre 1986 model

  • Harold Littell September 4, 2017, 5:43 pm

    Benchmade AFCK D2 axis lock.

  • Kalashnikov Dude September 2, 2017, 9:30 pm

    My daily carry knife has had its place on my belt since 2000. Its a Buck 112 that has been modified by a company called Parragon. It looks like a regular lock back folder. But it has a brass button on the side that activates a spring open function, making it a true one handed knife. As long as Ive done my part keeping it clean, the old school leather sheath does the rest. The knife always opens and its always sharp because I do my part there too. not many days go bye that I didnt use it for something. $250 seemed luke a lot at the time. But, the damn thing has more than paid for itself over the years, and saved my bacon a few times. Ill probably continue to carry it till I no longer concern myself with such things. My heirs will hopefully get some use of it after that. My fixed blade Cold Steel SRK is what would still be there on the same belt had I not lost it on a camping trip in the Grand Tetons around 1993. I have several Bench Made knives, an Appirition with the spring assist that is a 543 of 1000 first production with a crumbled box, missing accessories, and well used. That one sits on my gun smithing bench and still gets used there. It just didnt have the overall usefulness and fast into action that the old Buck seems to.

  • Fred H September 1, 2017, 8:08 pm

    For me it was always Cold Steel, but recently I have come to have a very zen like bond with Benchmade. I own a few now.
    my favorite EDC of the bunch is my 710-1401’s. the M-390 stays sharp and is very comfortable in my hand. I own a few cast off 804’s but they just do not work with the ATS-34 steel as a blade.
    I have the SOG Twitch II and it is in my backpack. I also have a couple of Benchmade 943’s but the CPM-S30V does not seem to hold up or hold an edge like the M-390 steel. that is why I carry the 710’s and the 943’s are in my backpacks and go-bags. I hope they bring out CPM-S90V, CPM-20CV or CPM-M4 in either of the Benchmade knives I own I would gladly pay to put any of those steels on my EDC. the three aforementioned steels I have on other hunting knives and will atest to the knives performance.

  • JIM September 1, 2017, 2:11 pm


    • mike360000 September 1, 2017, 7:54 pm

      Kershaw stinks… Hated both I purchased. Not dependable or durable at all.

      From the knives listed and the way knives are advirtised, paying anything over about 75 bux is wasteful and extravagant. I’ve went both ways and never found a benefit in paying extreme prices. But to each their own…

      • Alan September 8, 2017, 2:47 pm

        “But to each their own..”
        Indeed, I have several Kershaw Ken Onion designed knives, all are well made, hold a good edge, don’t fold up under pressure and look good. I carry one every day, two when out in the wild. I’ve never had a failure of these knives.
        As I’ve stated, I consider this line of knives to be a great value for the money.
        But like many knife makers, they do have a cheaper line, and I have no experience there.
        I did have a Spyderco knife from their cheaper line (value folders and Byrd lines) it wasn’t as well made as the one I’ve had for 10 years and paid $100 for. But to lose a value folder as opposed to a top of the line unit is no big deal.
        So, to denigrate any one maker for an undisclosed knife model is not a reflection of that manufacturer in my mind.
        They all have to make money, and sometimes carry a cheaper line.

  • Jeff September 1, 2017, 11:59 am

    I love a Ka-Bar Dozier. They perform very well and use Aus-8 steel; same as all the SOG knives. It has a strong lockback mechanism so I don’t have to worry about it coming loose like a liner lock, and they come in all the tactical colors. They weigh next to nothing and are only about $25, so it’s not a big deal if you lose them. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better!

    • mike360000 September 1, 2017, 7:57 pm

      Good knife at a real good price. Only a tad bulky.

  • John L September 1, 2017, 11:55 am

    Won’t own a folder with a thumb stud. Should have gone the way of the dodo years ago. Studs just interfere with an already short blade in most cases. Owned one once and gave it away. Spyderco Delica EDC for the last 35 years.

  • Norm Fishler September 1, 2017, 11:03 am

    My single most favorite EDC knife is the long discontinued Cold Steel Scimitar. Nothing else fits my hand like it.

  • Ron Rudser September 1, 2017, 9:58 am

    I don’t know what the standard was for these knives or if it was just his favorite knives, but I have had few Cold Steel, Benchmade, CRKT, Buck, as well as others. I have to say for the price point I don’t think anyone gives you more knife for your money than a Cold Steel. They may not always be the greatest looking knives but if I ever had to carry a single folding knife I would choose one of my Cold Steel knives probably SR1. They make a solid knife end of story.

  • Todd September 1, 2017, 9:29 am

    Zero Tolerance 0450cf
    Benchmade 940-1
    Spyderco Paramilitary 2
    Chris Reeve Sebenza 21
    Hinderer XM-18

    Not in any particular order

  • Foose September 1, 2017, 9:01 am

    Only knife worth a damn are the first two. Spyderco being the best.
    Benchmade and cold steel should have been there too

  • Paul O. September 1, 2017, 9:00 am

    I just picked up a CRKT Outrage. You are correct, it’s one heck of a knife for the price. Really smooth operation and melts into your hand.

  • Jason Skeel September 1, 2017, 8:26 am

    This list is totally wrong, one of the best knives out there for the money in the Benchmade Adamas period.

  • Steven September 1, 2017, 7:43 am

    Top 5, based on what?

  • MATHEW PHILLIPS September 1, 2017, 6:00 am

    I’m sorry but anyone that considers a liner lock folding knife one of the best there’s something wrong they’re not as Dependable as a lock back like the Spyderco in the first one cold steel and other ones if you go in for cheaper knives okay. I have been collecting knives for quite some time, learned a lesson or 2 not to trust liner looks. Tri ad lock, back locks are definitely the way to go. Hmmm funny not one Cold steel in the bunch?! They are in my opinion among the best knifes list among many others.

    • Steven September 1, 2017, 7:51 am

      Agree. If I’m going to throw some serious dough on a folder, it will not be a liner lock.

    • David September 1, 2017, 8:50 am

      Why are liner locks being dissed? Most people who carry an EDC knife will never use it in such a way that it will close on their hand. And if you are using it correctly, even an old fashioned folding knife without a lock is a great tool to carry. The main thing a knife is used for is cutting. Get it sharp. Keep it sharp. And use it correctly and safely.

      • Alan September 1, 2017, 9:53 am

        I totally agree, but I’ve found knife snobs to be very set in their often unfounded opinions.
        For one thing, I’ve NEVER found a lockback that could be considered a true ‘one hand’ knife, the design simply doesn’t allow for it.
        I consider the Ken Onion designed Kershaw line of folders to be very reliable liner locks, and one of the best values for the money for a true ‘working’ knife.
        And I have tested them, I never had one fold on me in the testing.
        I won’t have a lockback as a daily carry, I don’t like the design.
        BTW, design is EVERYTHING, a lockback poorly designed can fold too.

    • Jeff September 1, 2017, 12:00 pm

      I agree. F*** liner locks. They come loose too easy.

    • mike360000 September 3, 2017, 10:39 am

      Just your opinion. Not everyone agrees as this is a very subjective topic.

  • Neil September 1, 2017, 5:40 am

    The five best folders and not one Benchmade? Blasphemy. Should at least be a Barrage, Griptilian, Contego, or a Crooked River in there!!!

    • Jeff September 1, 2017, 12:01 pm

      I think he was using price as a factor. Your list is “if money was no object” I think.

      • mike360000 September 3, 2017, 10:40 am

        My thoughts too.

  • joe August 30, 2017, 7:46 am

    I have been collection knives for years
    And some of the best are Benchmade Axis probably the smoothest blade action you will find anywhere I carry one everyday. Chris Reeves Sebanza The Emerson’s are great Knives but heavy for everyday. I have a number of the old CA Bucks that are Great Knives too.
    One thing about the Benchmade is they are very light a 2++ OZs

    • Charles July 30, 2020, 8:03 pm

      How could you not have a benchmade on this list?
      I have several but the Northfork is the perfect edc and it is beautiful.
      Under 3” but sharp and sturdy enough to skin whatever you killed and light enough to not pull down a pair of gym shorts while running.

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