The adage “the right tool for the right job” applies when selecting a knife.

1. Kershaw CQC-4K


Open Length 7.4 in.
Closed Length 4.2 in.
Blade Length 3.25 in.
$53 /
Designed by martial artist Ernest Emerson, this model delivers an outstanding protective knife at an affordable cost. The thin blade profile is well suited for thrusting, and it is combined with a sturdy frame lock. It can be manually opened using the thumb disc or the patented Emerson Wave feature. The latter enables you to open the knife as you remove it from concealment. The black-oxide coating protects the blade and makes it non-reflective. The handle scales are made of G10 and provide a good grip, and the blade locks up via a sturdy frame lock.

2. CRKT M16-14Z
Great general-purpose blade


Open Length 9.25 in.
Closed Length 5.38 in.
Blade Length 3.88 in.
$80 /
Designed by the late Kit Carson, this model can be found in many pockets, waistbands, and bags of many explorers, police officers, and soldiers. It comes in many iterations and blade profiles. This is a beefy, full-size working knife designed for large hands and heavy-duty tasks. The blade is made from durable AUS 8 high-carbon stainless steel. This version features a tanto tip with a partially serrated edge for cutting through rope and other tough material. The knife can be opened manually via the thumb stud, or flipped open with the Carson Flipper.

3. Benchmade Griptilian


Open Length 6.78 in.
Closed Length 3.87 in.
Blade Length 2.91 in.
$115 /
Another legacy design, the Griptilian is one of Benchmade’s classics. It comes in all shapes and sizes. I like the small 3-inch-blade version with pink scales. The blade is made of 154 CM stainless steel, and it opens via a thumb stud and locks up with an Axis mechanism. There are serrated and non-serrated options available. It easily fits into a pocket, and its rounded edges help with concealment and are not prone to snag on clothing. For anyone who is uncomfortable carrying more aggressive-looking knives, it is a great option.

4. Benchmade 916 Triage


Open Length 8.2 in.
Closed Length 4.7 in.
Blade Length 3.5 in.
$190 /
This is a dedicated rescue knife, with its flat point, serrations, seat-belt cutter, and glass breaker. When cutting through seat belts or people’s clothing to expose a wound, you don’t want the tip to accidently poke the victim—a risk if he is thrashing around. The G10 orange scales give it extra visibility and grip amidst the chaos of an emergency situation. There are numerous blade options, including black-coated or satin finish, with or without serrations. Blade steel is N680, with the seat-belt cutter made from 440C.

5. SOG Trident
Ideal for self-defense


Open Length 8.5 in.
Closed Length 4.75 in.
Blade Length 3.75 in.
$103 /
You can tell exactly what the SOG Trident was meant to do just by looking at it. Its lines and profile are aggressive and fierce, and as a result it screams military. The blade has a black-coated finish for you ninjas out there, and the blade is made of AUS 8. This knife features SOG Assisted Technology (S.A.T.), which springs open and locks up with a piston mechanism. Check your local laws, since assisted-opening knives are illegal in some parts of the country. It also has a seat-belt cutter built into the frame.

6. Tavor Tactical Combat Folding Knife


Open Length 9 in.
Closed Length 5.25 in.
Blade Length 4 in.
$325 /
The Tavor is a good all-around knife that can stand up to abuse. The modified tanto tip can withstand being banged against hard surfaces and prying, but it also has a thin enough profile so that it is adequate for self defense. The blade is made from CPM 154 steel, and it can be opened via the Dual Arc Rapid Deployment thumb studs. The back spacers are made from aluminum, which prevents side-to-side play, and the 16-ball-bearing system ensures silky-smooth opening and closing. The pommel incorporates a glass breaker.