Best Knives for Law Enforcement – [A Comprehensive Guide]

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Every uniformed cop with a shred of professional pride carries a knife. 

The type of knife varies based on the needs of the officer. Some police officers work in crime-ridden urban areas and may need a self-defense knife. While other police officers may be responsible for patrolling the highways and have the responsibility of being first on scene to respond to a traffic accident. In their role, rescue knives may be more beneficial to their daily duties.

This article is written to provide practical and affordable knives for law enforcement that will fulfill the needs of police officers everywhere.

Please note that this is not an article reviewing different types of knives within the same segment. The knives presented in this article are among the best knives for law enforcement you can find.

If you are looking for practical knives for your everyday carry (EDC), look no further! Most of these are great for self-defense and look great next to your other everyday gear.

Comparison Chart

SWcropped
Ka-Bar TDI
Best Duty Belt Knife
Both Rescue top and CLS bottom feature good sized folding belt cutter right
Gerber Hinderer Combat Life Saver Knife, Serrated Edge
Best Rescue Knife
IMG 20221112 142903 scaled e1668289598290
Smith & Wesson SWHRT3BF
Best Tactical Knife
61Gi783lbbL. AC
Tac Force Tactical Black
Best Price
D3DvGVmh
Spyderco Police 4 Lighweight
Best Choice
811VcQqzHML. AC SL1500
Smith & Wesson Velocite
Best Assisted-Opening Knife
31zFesS1+uL. AC
Ka-Bar TDI Last Ditch
Best Boot Knife
81AJurwVFSL. AC SL1500
Gerber Ghoststrike
Best Ankle Wrap Knife

Duty Belt Knives

As the name clearly states, duty belt knives are the knives you carry in your duty belt.  However, officers have various reasons for why they choose to carry their duty knives. Some carry them for utility purposes, self-defense, and even to assist in a rescue. 

What these knives have in common is that they are compact which means they don’t utilize a lot of space on your duty belt.

As an experienced police officer, there is one knife that stands out. This knife provides an innovative and effective self-defense measure. It is the one and only Ka-Bar TDI. If you work in law enforcement, you as well as your colleagues are probably familiar and should already be carrying this knife. 

SWcropped
My personal Ka Bar – One of the most popular and best knives for law enforcement

This knife should be carried on the opposite side of your firearm. If a person tries to take your firearm from you, you can hold onto your gun with the hand on the firearm’s side and use your other hand to draw the Ka-Bar TDI. Once you have your Ka-Bar TDI, you can use the knife to do whatever it takes to stop the attack. Just remember that the serrated blade can do a lot of damage. This knife also has other unique features. The Ka-Bar TDI handle is curved, making it a lot easier to draw when sitting down. The versatility doesn’t just stop here.

There are several different sizes you can choose from. I personally recommend the knife that is 5 5/8″. If you choose to use this knife for self-defense purposes, you must be close to the attacker. Please keep in mind that the small size of the knife provides valuable room for other items on your belt. 

This knife can be purchased on Amazon. Or you can click here to make sure you get the correct one with a hard sheath and clip.

Tactical Knives

The term tactical knife is not easy to define. While researching, I discovered that tactical knives have a military origin – which means it has to be effective against enemies. I also discovered that they are suitable in size and weight. 

Tactical knives are also similar to combat knives, but combat knives do not have the same concerns regarding size, weight, or non-reflective blades. Tactical knives are fixed as opposed to folding knives, but both are very similar in every other regard. 

Aitor combat knife and sheath
My old Aitor combat knife. Very unpractical due to its size, but a must-have for collectors

My top choice for tactical knives for law enforcement is the Smith & Wesson SWHRT3BF. This knife has a timeless design, it’s free from fancy modifications, and is dually sharp. The tactic is simple: stab with the pointy end. There is no need to have a large Rambo knife; this one delivers what it promises. It’s also the one I have personally been using for EDC in my spare time for the last ten years.

IMG 20221112 142903 scaled e1668289598290
My own well-used Smith & Wesson SWHRT3BF. Mostly used for EDC on my spare time

Since fixed knives need a sheath, you can’t be as creative regarding placement as you can with folding knives with a clip. However, having a permanent place for your knife will help you the day you need it to act and even save your life.

Rescue Knives for Law Enforcement

In my opinion, every cop should have a rescue knife. You don’t have to carry it at all times, but you should have it in your patrol bag or your car so that it’s easily accessible. Rescue knives can be utilized when an accident has occurred. They are not intended for self-defense or any other purposes. There are two primary features every rescue knife should have: a strap cutter and a glass breaker.

Strap cutter

The strap cutter is primarily used to cut unconscious people’s seat belts off when you’re rescuing them from an unfortunate event, such as a car accident. Believe it or not, I have also used my rescue knife to cut the rope down on people who have tried to kill themselves by hanging. 

Close-up of strap cutter on rescue knife
The strap cutter of my personal rescue knife.

The design of the strap cutter makes it easy to cut the intended rope or strap while avoiding hurting the person you are liberating.

Glass breaker

The glass breaker is the sharp, pointy metal at the butt of the knife. Imagine a police officer trying to break a car window? We are often surprised at how hard it is, even with a baton. 

The glass breaker makes the glass collapse and does not need nearly as much force as breaking it with another object, such as a baton. The glass breaker on an emergency knife is precisely the same as the emergency hammers found on buses, trains, and subways.

Close-up of glass breaker on rescue knife
The glass breaker of my personal rescue knife

If you were in a self-defense situation and only had a rescue knife on your person, I have some good news for you! You can use your rescue knife! Keep in mind, most rescue knives consist of a strap cutter and a glass breaker. According to my research, some companies market glass breakers on their knives as skull crushers. In short, the glass breaker can also be used for self defense purposes.

Best Choice

In my opinion, the best rescue knife for police officers is the Gerber Hinderer Combat Saver.

This knife is equipped with the mandatory glass breaker and strap cutter. It also has an oversized thumb stud. If you’re working a traffic accident where there is a lot of glass and twisted metal involved, you could easily cut your hands while trying to rescue someone from their vehicle. Wearing suitable gloves may prevent you from further injuries and the oversized thumb stud is available so that you can use your knife without removing your thick safety gloves. If you want the most practical police rescue knife, look no further: Buy it here. 

Police Folding Knife

The law enforcement folding knife is a combination of the knives previously discussed. Although I do not recommend it, this knife could be carried in the duty belt. Due to the fact that folding knives typically have clips, they can be fastened to other places than the belt. For example, I would rather put a folding knife with a clip inside a pocket. The police folding knife is similar to the tactical knife but the folding knife is not fixed like the tactical knife is. Lastly, most rescue knives are folding knives but may not have the other components that police folding knives have. 

Why should a cop have a folding knife? For starters, they are just nice to have! There will come a time in which you will need it, but you just don’t know when. I would also encourage you to purchase two knives, if your budget allows. In the event your main knife disappears or is inaccessible, you will always have a backup. The clip makes it easy to place it in a pocket, a vest, and other creative places. Many of these knives are also great for everyday carry.

I have asked many colleagues which folding knife they prefer to carry and most of them replied with one of the following:

The Tac Force Black Tactical

A cheap, but yet reliable option. It is perfect for someone who misplaces their things from time to time or who wishes to buy a knife but not spend an arm and a leg. These knives cost roughly $10 on Amazon.

Tac Force Black Tactical
Tac Force Black Tactical

Spyderco Police

This knife has been very popular with law enforcement since the 80s. They were specifically made to be the best folding knives for police officers, so it’s no wonder. The Spyderco Police knife has now reached its fourth model and is as popular as ever.

 Spyderco Police 4

Don’t be fooled by the photos; it’s much bigger than it looks. At max, it’s almost 10″ unfolded! Be sure to acquire the lightweight model to get the most bang for the buck. If you buy it here, you’ll get the right one. 

Assisted Opening Knife

The difference between a switchblade knife and a spring assisted knife (sometimes called an assisted opening knife) is that with switchblade knives, you solely have to press a button. In order to open an assisted opening knife,  you would have to unfold the blade first. The assisted opening knife is equipped with a spring that assists the user in opening the knife. 

Gif showing how the spring assisted mechanism works
Spring assisted knife. Notice how I initiate the movement and that the spring only makes it easier

Buyer Beware – Each state has its own legislation regarding switchblade knives. Do your own research on the legality of owning this kind of knife in your state. Federal law does prohibit Americans from importing switchblade knives from outside the United States. 

I did not want to recommend this knife without informing our readers of the legal ramifications that surround purchasing this knife. If the spring assisted knife was legal worldwide, I would have recommended the Smith & Wesson Velocite. It’s preferred by both cops and outdoorsmen alike.

The Beautiful Smith & Wesson Velocite
The Beautiful Smith & Wesson Velocite

The aesthetic of the knife fits perfectly with police use. It has a blade with a matte finish and looks way more expensive than it actually is. The assisted opening mechanism is smooth and has a great feel. If you’re looking for a knife with a good grip, you’ve found it! This knife has a polymer grip, making it safer than most other knives. Buy it here.

Other Knives

There are several types of knives that law enforcement agencies use. It depends on the unit they belong to and their primary tasks. We’ll take a quick look at two of the most relevant knives and one that is a no-go. 

Boot and Strap Knives

The boot knife is primarily made for military personnel who risk getting captured and stripped of weapons. In the event that said military personnel is kidnapped, this knife is kept hidden in their boot and can be used to defend themselves or escape from their captor.

There are no realistic scenarios that come to mind where law enforcement may need a boot knife. However, cops are often interested in having as much gear as possible, and I personally know many who carry one on their person. The most popular boot knife to date is the Ka-Bar TDI Last Ditch.

Ka-Bar TDI Last Ditch knife and sheath
Ka-Bar TDI Last Ditch

Some plainclothes police officers like to wear strap knives on their ankles, thus carrying as little gear as possible. This Gerber knife makes for a good alternative. 

Gerber Strap
Gerber ankle strap knife

Many civilians also wear a strap knife as a part of their EDC. If I were you, I’d consider doing this as well. Instead of cramming your pockets with unnecessary tools, the strap can help you conceal your knife in an unseen area on your body. It will definitely be a place that people with bad intentions will easily overlook!  

Ballistic Knife

The ballistic knife has a detachable blade that ejects with the assistance of a spring mechanism. This happens with the pressing of a button. Fun fact, there are knives where the blade is propelled by gas or even an explosive charge. I can’t imagine any reason why a cop would own one. 

Ballistic Knife both handle and blade
Ballistic Knife

FAQ

What is a CIA knife?

There is really no such thing as a “CIA knife”. CIA operatives mostly get issued the gear they need for their missions.

However, when people talk about CIA knifes, they often refer to knives with nylon composite blades. The reason for this, is that nylon blades supposedly do not set off metal detectors.

But beware, they are not as sturdy as steel or carbon knifes. If you still want to get one, check out this Kershaw nylon composite knife i found on Amazon.

What knife does the Navy SEALs use?

The Ontario Mark III is the standard issue for all Navy SEALs. It is a versatile knife that works in most conditions. If you are interested in getting one for yourself, you can buy it here

What is the most iconic knife?

“There can be only one”

The answer is, of course, the Swiss Army Knife. If you were to pull out one of these bad boys on the job, you would get a lot of aaaahs. There’s a lot of nostalgia associated with them. Get them on Amazon, they’re only about 20 bucks a pop.

We want to hear from you! 

We’ve discovered that many factors go into deciding what knife is right for an officer. 

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself. 

What are your main tasks? 

What reasonable risk do you face on a day to day basis? 

Do you need both a main knife and a backup knife?

How much are you willing to invest?

Here’s a fun task for you. In your spare time, go to a local gun store and test out some different types of knives. If you discover that these knives don’t suit your personal needs or when you’re on the clock, come back and tell us why. We’d be quite surprised if one of these knives isn’t just perfect for you!

For more information about police gear, see our articles about important items you need as a police officer [14 + items] and patrol bag contents.

2 thoughts on “Best Knives for Law Enforcement – [A Comprehensive Guide]”

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