By Bob Terzuola


For your consideration 


The term “tactical knife “ is an elusive description used to define a certain genre of knives, usually implying a military or combat oriented weapon.

I have been called the “Godfather” of the tactical knife but I will say that no one person actually created either the name or the genre. There have been many contributors to tactical type knives, which have evolved over the years and have taken on many profiles, sizes and adornments.

I’ve given much thought to a coherent definition and have decided on a few basic requirements for a design to be termed “Tactical”.

Primarily, a tactical knife is a tool for survival. 

That can mean:

 An adversarial situation with man or beast, a challenging time in a forest, jungle or desert, a sudden need to liberate oneself or another by quickly cutting a rope, strap or other entanglement. Such situations can be encountered on boats, rock climbing, camping, strolling in a park, on a city street or virtually anywhere, and usually present themselves with little or no warning.

I offer here some design suggestions for the “Tactical” knife which, I’m sure will stir some controversy.

The Tactical knife blade needs to perform two functions; to cut (or slash or slice); and to penetrate (or stab or puncture). (An example of this is described elsewhere in this book under the title “Mud Tire Murder”). The requirement for a strong and robust blade shape is obvious in any “Tactical” knife.

Some blade profiles which are called “ tactical” are not, in my opinion suitable for those purposes. The popular Karambit Blade or sheepsfoot profiles are deadly as slicing weapons but less effective in penetration. Also, the delicacy of a Karambit point precludes any serious penetration into tough targets such as animal hides, leather clothing body armor or tires.

The “Tactical” knife, folder or fixed blade, needs to be instantly accessible to the hand in a useable attitude. For a folder, a secure pocket clip is usually employed after the original Spyderco/Sal Glesser design. There are many iterations of the pocket clip but all allow the knife to be carried snugly in the on-hand pocket for quick retrieval and deployment. A one hand opening feature is also essential design element since the off-hand is often occupied with holding an object to be cut, hanging on to a rope or ladder fending off an adversary, etc.


 Fixed blades in sheaths or pocket knives in pouches tend to be slower on the draw because of the need for secure fastenings. Other carry designs such as hanging hooks, special clothing pockets etc. can be useful but without a secure pocket clip, I would subtract points on the subjective “Tactical” scale.

The “Tactical “ knife must be comfortable in the hand in any position.  Sharp corners and edges, excessively protruding finger grooves, severe curves and decorative bumps can impede or preclude the knife being held in reverse or sometimes awkward but necessary positions. One can not foresee every situation in which the knife may be employed, so every possible position in the hand must be allowed for. Additionally,  some design elements should be employed which provide some minimal protection for the fingers to prevent the hand from sliding forward in a penetration move.                                                         

Good grip is essential for a “Tactical“ knife. “Slippery when wet” should be heeded when designing such a knife, fixed or folder. Shiny glitz, glitter and schmaltz tend to reduce gripability and should be avoided. Decoration or embellishment such as bolsters, fancy steels or  colorful,artistic additions are inconsequential to the design and definition of the “Tactical” knife so long as they do not reduce hand comfort, accessibility or grip.   

-Bob Terzuola