Personal Defense Knives: 3 Good Fixed-Blade Options

For years when I traveled where I couldn't carry a gun, I would take along a folding knife for protection. I now know better. While convenient, folders are difficult to deploy under stress, and the spot where the blade pivots is inherently weak. This disqualifies them for serious self-defense work. Instead, invest in a good fixed-blade knife. But do your homework before strapping on a blade. State and local ordinances governing knives--both fixed-blades and folders--are varied and confusing, so take time to investigate the laws where you plan to carry.

Benchmade Nimravus
$180
▶ This drop-point-style knife is made of stainless steel coated in a matte black finish to reduce glare and minimize the 4 ½-inch blade's visibility when drawn. The full-tang design is sandwiched in an anodized aluminum handle that has a large finger groove for added control. As with most knives, the supplied sheath isn't meant for concealment, so you'll need to invest in an aftermarket sheath for proper concealed carry.

Spartan Ares Fighter
$328
▶ Partners Chris Iovito and Mark Carey, co-founders of Spartan Blades, are both retired from U.S. Army Special Forces and have firsthand knowledge of what makes a good fighting knife. The 5 3⁄8-inch blade on the Ares (10 ½ inches overall) is long enough to achieve fearsome thrusting penetration as well as serious tip speed for slashing. The grooved Micarta handle gives the Ares a narrow profile while enabling a vise-like grip.

Chris Reeve Nyala
$230
▶ South African transplant Chris Reeve makes lovely knives at his Boise, Idaho, facility, including the 3 ½-inch Nyala pictured here. Yes, this is a traditional drop-point skinner hunting knife that doesn't look "tactical" in any respect. Don't let that fool you. The Nyala--with its simple, elegant design and functional Micarta handle for superior blade ­control--can fend off an assailant as easily as it will field dress an elk.