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What Are Tactical Pocket Knives

Swiss Army Pocket KnivesTactical pocket knives have subtle differences from other types of blades. Most experts consider a tactical knife to be a folding knife that is quick and efficient to deploy one-handed. Tactical pocket knives also have features that perform specific tasks more efficiently than regular pocket knives.

History of Tactical Pocket Knives

Lockback knives, such as those made by Bucks, a company specializing in knives, became popular in the 1960s, employing a lock such as a hook or lug that fits into a notch when the blade is in open position. And because these blades became useful for hunting and military activities, other knife makers began expounding on the idea. Knife maker Bob Terzuola is usually given credit for inventing the term, “tactical folder.” As tactical knives became increasingly popular across the United States in the 1990s, more companies that are well-known for blade manufacturing, such as Benchmade, Kershaw Knives, Buck Knives, Gerber, CRKT, and Spyderco, began working with experts to begin mass production of tactical blade designs. Ernest Emerson, also a well-known knife designer who began making knives in 1979, has become renowned for his design skills and his understanding of knife ergonomics through his extensive expertise as a combat trainer

Design: How Are Tactical Pocket Knives Fifferent from Regular Knives?

Automatic Opening KnifeDesigns for opening tactical pocket knives vary. Some knives require manual opening by applying pressure to a thumb stud, or a button on the blade that is pushed outward by the thumb at the same time that the blade is whipped open. Other tactical knives are classified as assisted opening blades that also require use of a thumb stud, but the blade is propelled the rest of the way open by the resistance of a torsion bar being temporarily disabled. A knife with an automatic opening mechanism, or a switchblade, are other forms of tactical knives, though these are subject to regulations. State and local laws vary regarding ownership of automatic opening blades, and local regulations should be consulted before purchases are made. The distinction between automatic opening blades and open-assisted ones can sometimes seem blurry, but in general, if the blade requires the manual process of pushing the thumb stud as well as requiring a detent or some sort of assistance in unlocking the blade to close it, it is considered an assisted opener.

But what else makes a tactical pocket knife different? Importantly, the intended use of the blade should dictate what type of blade is purchased. The size and shape of the blade matter as well as the ergonomics involved, meaning how comfortably and naturally it fits in the hand during usage. This is crucial to employing it effectively. If parts of the handle are sharp, pointed, have unnatural pressures on the hand or fit uncomfortable in the hand, by default it will be less comfortable or harder to use, especially if the user is under duress.

Curved Edge Bladed Pocket KnifeSome knives are designed for law enforcement or for combat. Others have a utilitarian purpose and are useful for hunting, manual labor, or as another element in a tool kit. Tactical pocket knives can also be designed for more detailed tasks with shorter, thin blades with a more delicate point, or they can be larger with sturdier points for combat and other military or law enforcement uses. Emerson notes that curved cutting edges are more useful in cutting through fabrics, for example, seatbelts, and stresses that the design of the knife is the most important aspect of the knife, emphasizing, “materials do not make the knife. Design makes the knife. A bad knife with good materials is still a bad knife.” He also stresses that serrated knives will still cut, even when dull, and therefore if one has to choose, a knife with a serrated blade might be a better option. This is especially true if the user is not always in a position to easily sharpen their knife.

Design Criticisms

Folding knives by their very nature are not as strong as fixed blade knives. This is due to fixed blades having no moveable design elements, the blade being one unit with the handle. Locks of any sort have the potential to fail despite even the most structured and strong design, and that should be kept in mind when purchasing the knife so that the product is suited to the purpose of buying it.

Laws Surrounding Tactical Pocket Knives

Because of state and local ownership and carrying regulations, it is always best to know your laws. Certain blades may not be legal to transport across state lines, and some states have specific legal rules for carrying knives vs. collecting them. Because of many state laws prohibiting the ownership of automatic opening blades, as well as the fact that many of these laws change frequently, it is the owner’s responsibility to know with what laws their knife needs to comply.

Brand Snapshot

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