27 Best Special Forces Knives in 2021

A lot of people wonder what knives Special Forces units like Navy SEALs carry, and if you look at online forums people are constantly arguing about it, but the truth is Special Forces guys prefer pretty much the same things as everyone else. They want something that works, is durable and has characteristics favorable to the specific mission at hand.

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t knives that are more common than others found on the MOLLE panel of a Special Forces operator’s vest and there are certainly some knives that have garnered quite the reputation such as the Emerson CQC-7, the knife that was carried by the point man during Operation Neptune Spear, the mission that resulted in the death of the most wanted man on earth.

Some Knives Used by Special Forces

Aside from knives that have high utility usage, most operators are going to be carrying the same things as most civilians which includes rugged fixed blades, reputable pocket knives, and anything in between.

Keep in mind there are no specific knives that Special Forces use because, just like the different Special Forces units themselves, their missions and tasks are pretty specific but are always evolving, meaning they are likely choosing to equip themselves with the right tools for the job, which is rarely ever the same as the job before.

This means that Special Forces aren’t just buying a specific knife and then always relying on that specific knife as they sometimes may require a knife with totally different attributes than the one they used the last time they packed out.

The responsibility of choosing a knife to utilize in the field relies on the operator and, just like regular people, some operators are huge knife fanatics and some operators don’t really care and will use whatever gets the job done. The operators that are most enthusiastic about their knives are going to be using something custom and sometimes they even use knives they’ve made themselves!

With all of that said, we’re going to make our best attempt at compiling a short and concise list of knives that are simply popular and often seen among Special Forces units but it’s important to note that, since operators can choose to use whatever knife they want, that a comprehensive list would be literally hundreds, possibly thousands of knives long, so we’ll go with what’s most popular and what’s most available.

Here Are Some Knives Special Forces Use

1. Cold Steel SRK

Cold Steel SRK 5

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Estimated Price: $50 to $140

Blade Steel: CPM 3V / San Mai / SK-5
Blade Shape: Clip Point
Blade Length: 5.00 Inches
Total Length: 9.50 Inches
Handle Composition: Kray-Ex
Weight: 10.40 Ounces

My Review: Cold Steel is a reputable knife company known for making reliable knives that are a pleasure to use, and the SRK is one of their most popular knives for good reasons. Keep in mind these knives come in a few different options so we’ll first get that out of the way.

The CPM 3V is going to be the knife snob choice, obviously being the most expensive but also being the most versatile and the most premium of the available steels. CPM 3V is among the best in the business in terms of tactical use, so if you can afford it, go for it, it’s a steel choice that’ll give you a blade that will last a lifetime.

The other choices, San Mai, and SK-5 are lower-tier steels that, albeit are cheaper than CPM 3V, are still really excellent choices for knives being deployed in combat. San Mai is a bit more resistant to corrosion but weaker overall compared to SK5. If you’re going to be using the knife in saltwater or an overall wet environment, San Mai is the choice for better longevity but SK5 is a stronger carbon steel that encompasses a bit higher level of tensile strength.

The Cold Steel SRK 5 has been issued to the Navy SEALs during B.U.D.S training and obviously, many of them continue to use these knives long after graduation in the field. The reason special forces operators love these knives is simple – the design is simple, the weight is just enough to put some oomph behind the blade but doesn’t unnecessarily weigh the operator down, and the steel choices are all excellent and purposely designed to be used in extremely demanding environments. The SRK 5 is a workhorse that will endure and prevail against heavy abuse across the board.

2. Benchmade Nimravus

Benchmade Nimravus

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Estimated Price: $200

Blade Steel: 154CM
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 4.50 Inches
Total Length: 9.45 Inches
Handle Composition: 6061-T6 Anodized Aluminum
Weight: 6.20 Ounce

My Review: The Benchmade Nimravus is not only a Marine Approved favorite but a favorite among many on the battlefield. The design inspiration behind this monstrosity is pretty straight-forward, to be as lethal and tough as a knife can possibly be. Is it the best knife ever made? Well, maybe not, but is it one of the absolute best tactical fixed blade options at two hundred bucks? Yeah, I’d say the Nimravus probably is, so let me explain.

Firstly, the steel choice here is superb consisting of 154CM. 154CM is excellently well-rounded steel that offers a ton of tensile strength without being too difficult for a novice to sharpen in the field as many of the comparable super steels. The 154CM drop point blade found here is one of the easiest to maintain while still being insanely strong and durable enough to trust your life on.

You might have noticed that I chose the drop point version to link to but don’t let that stop you from choosing the Tanto variant as both are extremely viable choices and really, the blade shape is going to depend on what you need most. Personally, I like tanto blades but I typically choose drop points because they are so much more useful for a wider range of non-combat use-cases but are still very much so lethal and usable in a sticky situation.

3. ESEE Military Series 3MIL-P

ESEE Military Series 3MIL P

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Estimated Price: $115

Blade Steel: 1095 Carbon Steel
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 3.86 Inches
Total Length: 8.31 Inches
Handle Composition: Micarta
Weight: 5.22 Ounces

My Review: We’ll talk about the ESEE JUNGLAS-II knife below, which is a fantastic survival and camping knife but in many cases, a special forces operator will want something smaller, and easier to conceal but still encompassing the strength and durability of an ESEE fixed blade. The Series 3Mil-P would be my answer here, coming in at about a fourth of the weight and less than half the blade length of the JUNGLAS-II but still being a little monster of its own.

You get the same steel, 1095 Carbon with a black powder coating, and the same handle material, that lovely highly textured ESEE micarta, the clip-plate, and MOLLE compatible Molded sheath, in a much smaller and easier to conceal package. Something you’ll notice on these knives compared to a lot of other general-purpose camp/survival knives is that the blade is a bit thinner than most on the market.

Sure, this does lend to a tad less ability to pry and such, but overall it makes the knife feel a lot easier to use for smaller tasks, like cutting up food or just being used as a general-purpose knife. These knives are a lot lighter than most of its competitors with pretty much the same strength, if not more in some cases, which is why these are so incredibly popular among military personnel.

4. Boker Apple Gate Combat II

Boker Apple Gate Combat II Knife

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Estimated Price: $200

Blade Steel: 440C
Blade Shape: Spear Point
Blade Length: 6.00 Inches
Total Length: 10.75 Inches
Handle Composition: Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN)
Weight: 8.64 Ounces

My Review: The Boker Apple Gate is an icon in the world of tactical knives and pieces of utility being used among special forces. I personally don’t have much experience with it, but I have added this to the list just to bring attention to one of the most well-known knives to knife enthusiasts in the military.

This particular design was originally based on the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger design that we see in the World War II era, which was designed by Col. Rex Applegate who was also the personal guard and good friend of President D. Roosevelt. Yeah, that’s a pretty awesome little back story behind this knife and really, a lot of knives that enthusiasts in the military carry do have these cool little stories behind them that makes them fun to carry and makes for a great conversation piece.

Boker Apple Gates have become a little difficult to get your hands on, but if you do, expect to pay around two hundred bucks and to be obtaining a beautifully designed spear point style knife consisting of 440C attached to an FRN Delrin handle. These knives are ergonomically genius for the spear point design and are equally as incredible visually.

5. Gerber LMF II

Gerber LMF II Knife

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Estimated Price: $150

Blade Steel: 420 High Carbon
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 4.84 Inches
Total Length: 10.59 Inches
Handle Composition: Zytel
Weight: 11.52 Ounces

My Review: We have written and raved about the Gerber LMF II so many times that I find it absolutely crazy that so many people haven’t grabbed one and given them a go! Sure, Gerber isn’t always the best and they sometimes have questionable quality control, but the LMF II is a knife that has been given the care and detail that anyone, including a special forces operator, can really appreciate.

These knives are just absolute tanks. 420HC isn’t a bad choice to start with, but when given a drop point shape and a really thick spine, it’s going to be able to endure a lot of abuse and a lot of strenuous everyday usage. The LMF II was designed with egress from an aircraft in mind, but they really went to the ends of the Earth in terms of packing this bad boy with features. For example, the LMF II encompasses a handle that is fully insulated making this knife safe and easy to use on electrical components. The end cap is separated from the tang of the knife which really helps absorb a lot of the energy before it gets to your hands when using it as a hammering tool or glass breaker.

This 10 Inch monster is an excellent all-around knife that many have enjoyed due to its incredible versatility and overall durability. The Gerber LMF II is a knife that has seen combat in every region on Earth and has been battle-tested and proven time and time again. The design was obviously finely tuned and crafted with a special forces operator’s needs in mind the entire way through development.

6. Gerber StrongArm

Gerber StrongArm Fixed Blade Knife with Fine Edge

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Estimated Price: $70

Blade Steel: 420 High Carbon
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 4.80 Inches
Total Length: 9.80 Inches
Handle Composition: GFN with Rubberized Overmold
Weight: 7.90 Ounces

My Review: The Gerber StrongArm is a definite Marine Approved favorite as it checks a lot of the boxes anyone facing combat or harsh environments would need, yet is offered at a very economically friendly price point.

The StrongArm is built specifically to be a rather fantastic middle ground between rough and tough capability but being compact enough to be considered part of a heavy pack out for a long trek.

At about half the cost of the Gerber LMF II, you get a blade that’s only roughly an inch shorter, consisting of the same high strength 420 High Carbon steel with black ceramic protective coating, and an incredibly strong overall build design. Both of these Gerber fixed blade knives were born from a demand that warranted blades on the more compact and efficient end of the spectrum that could still hold up to big jobs and heavy abuse.

So how can you choose between the two? The LMF II is quite a bit heavier, albeit the good type of heavy, but this makes it less advantageous to say, someone facing a long trek or working in tight spaces when it comes to the StrongArm. At roughly 3 Ounces lighter, the StrongArm is definitely a lot easier to pack out and maneuver around in tight spaces but hosts almost the same amount of overall utility that the LMF II has.

So, is almost double the price worth 3 Ounces of additional steel?

Well, to be honest, the LMF II just feels great, it has this character to it that the StrongArm kind of lacks, but overall, it’s really going to depend on your needs. For big heavy tasks where you aren’t strapped with weight restrictions, the LMF II is certainly a sizable but comfortable beast to handle while the StrongArm certainly feels compact, both in a good way that allows it to be easier to carry but also it certainly does feel cheaper and less overall menacing than its hefty bigger brother.

At the end of the day, for most people, the choice is going to come down to personal preference as both knives will perform excellently across the board and are certainly trustworthy companions in harsh and hostile territory.

7. Ontario Knife Company (OKC) MK 3

Ontario Knife Company (OKC) MK 3

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Estimated Price: $90
Blade Steel: 440A
Blade Shape: Clip Point
Blade Length: 6.00 Inches
Total Length: 11.1 Inches
Handle Composition: Micarta
Weight: 9.76 Ounces

My Review: I’ve written about the OKC MK lineup so many times and every time I just wish I could find a new way to explain how much I love these knives. No, they aren’t made of super steel or the latest technology but they are perfectly priced for what they are, and for almost everyone reading this, they’re going to perform far beyond expectations. These are the kinds of knives that you buy not expecting to keep them nice and clean but more so take them out back and beat the living heck out of them.

It’s kind of funny because even after beating the living heck out of them, they still look the same! You could take an OKC MK 3 out on the roughest and toughest month-long survival trip through the jungle and return the thing to OKC and they could run it under some sink water and put them right back up for sale, that’s how well they resist abuse!

Okay, maybe a tad bit of an overstatement but the blades really are super thick and ultra-durable. No, 440A isn’t exactly my favorite steel I’ve ever used, but come on, I get to use super steels anytime I want, so I think my expectations are a bit higher than the average person’s.

These knives have long been issued and utilized by the US Navy and in terms of Special Forces, OKC has a long reputation dealing with several different units and there are countless stories of these being purchased both as a unit and as standalone choices for operators not only in the US but all around the world. From the SEALs to secret narcotics units operating in the jungles, these knives have certainly earned their reputation as a fantastic all-around fixed blade that’s highly versatile and exceptionally reliable.

8. SOG SEAL Pup Elite

SOG SEAL Pup Elite Knife

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Estimated Price: $90

Blade Steel: AUS-8
Blade Shape: Clip Point
Blade Length: 4.85 Inches
Total Length: 9.50 Inches
Handle Composition: Glass Reinforced Nylon (GRN)
Weight: 5.40 Ounces

My Review: We have talked about a lot of knives made in America so far and I think it’s fair to say that Navy SEALs and Marines are probably among the most patriotic people on planet Earth and we certainly love buying American made products, however, the SOG SEAL Pup has quite the reputation, build quality, and is made in Taiwan, a country well known for being capable of producing incredible knives.

SOG is an American company and they do make some of their knives, like most of their folding knives, in the great US of A, however, the SEAL Pup Elites have a level of quality and performance to them that I think pretty much anyone with basic knowledge of knives can learn to respect and appreciate. Are they the best knives ever made? Well, no, but they aren’t even a hundred bucks and they do certainly give the best knives ever made a fair run for their money.

Something that anyone will tell you after owning a SOG SEAL Pup Elite is that these things are insanely lightweight compared to other knives of similar sizes. At first, it may almost seem like the lightweight properties are a result of being low quality, but the AUS-8 blades these come with can be insanely sharp, and overall they perform pretty decently across the board.

These knives from SOG make for excellent outdoor abusers but also as a more “quiet solution” to problems a Special Forces operator may require. More and more of those in the military, Special Forces or not, are preferring the SEAL Pup Elite over the original SOG SEAL knives simply because they’re lighter, feel better in the hand, and are overall just as useful! A bigger knife isn’t always tactically superior and I can’t think of a better example than right here with the SEAL Pup Elite.

9. Chris Reeve Green Beret / Yarborough

Chris Reeve Green Beret Knife

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Estimated Price: $325

Blade Steel: CPM-S35VN
Blade Shape: Spear Point
Blade Length: 7.00 Inches
Total Length: 12.38 Inches
Handle Composition: Micarta
Weight: 12.80 Ounces

My Review: William P. Yarborough, the man commonly known as the “Father of the Modern Green Berets” is the inspiration behind the name of this knife but you can’t buy it under that name unless you graduate successfully from the Special Forces qualification course. To civilians, this knife is known as the Chris Reeve Green Beret and can be bought for the low price of $350 but it’ll be missing a serial number that belongs only to those who have truly earned it.

This knife really does have some pretty interesting lore behind it and even if you aren’t interested in its ties to the Green Berets, it’s been designed by both Chris Reeve and William W. Harsey. Chris Reeve is, well, Chris Reeve, he makes some pretty cool knives, especially titanium folders, but William Harsey is a legend in the knife world and has designed countless knives used by the military.

The Green Beret consists of S35VN which is a super steel similar to 154CM but with a hint of vanadium and niobium carbides that greatly improves its resistance to wear and overall toughness. S35VN is a rather rare steel especially among lengthy fixed blades but that isn’t due to low performance but more so the high cost it comes with.

If you’re willing to pay super steel prices then you’re going to get a blade that is going to last a ridiculous amount of time and although super steels are generally pretty notorious for being rather tough to sharpen, these have insane levels of edge retention, so you won’t be sharpening them very often. What’s really great about this steel and the overall blade design is how versatile these knives can be. From chopping to slicing across both survival and combat use, the Chris Reeve Green Beret excels excellently across the board.

Is this knife the best bang for your buck? Eh, no, not really, but it’s pretty dang cool and has a lot of history behind it so if you’re interested in a knife that really is used and loved by people in the Special Forces, then perhaps it would be a great addition to your collection. As a last note here, I will say that this knife has quite the reputation of being gifted to those graduating their Special Forces qualifications classes and as such, are generally left home as more of a keepsake and reminder of their exceptional accomplishment, however, some guys do carry these right into the belly of the beast, but rarely.

10. Emerson CQC-7

Emerson CQC 7

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Estimated Price: $200

Blade Steel: 154CM
Blade Shape: Tanto
Blade Length: 3.25 Inches
Total Length: 8.00 Inches
Opening Mechanism: Disk Flipper
Locking Mechanism: Liner Locker
Handle Composition: G10
Weight:

My Review: As we mentioned before, a lot of Special Forces operators are toting around knives that have an interesting backstory or incredible reputation. After all, most operators are a lot more focused on skills and physical performance than they are the knives they carry, so a lot of what they choose is based on word of mouth and trust. There really is no other pocket knife on the market that gets as much notoriety, at least not in modern times, then the Emerson CQC-7.

As a matter of fact, this particular knife became famous for being carried on the point man, Mark Owen, during operation Neptune Spear, the operation that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of JSOC and the Navy SEALs. The exact knife that was used in the operation fetched a mind-melting price of $35,400 at auction, which you can read more about here.

This knife isn’t all just glam and fame, though, as it’s a downright monster of a knife. Of course, its primary function is to be used as a CQC tool, so it lacks a bit in the general usage department due to its unique chisel grind and Tanto blade style, but in terms of being lethal and coming in as a trusted weapon and part of the loadout of a special forces operator, this is one of the most trusted and sought after options on the market. This is one of the most popular folding special forces knives out there.

11. Spyderco Military Model

Spyderco Military Model

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Estimated Price: $225

Blade Steel: CPM S30V
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 4.00 Inches
Total Length: 9.50 Inches
Opening Mechanism: Unassisted Spyderco “Spydie” Hole
Locking Mechanism: Back Rocker Lock
Handle Composition: G10
Weight: 4.50 Ounces

My Review: Spyderco has become extremely popular in the military and the reasons are very simple. These knives are engineered with versatility and durability in mind, making them perform exceptionally in harsh conditions across a wide variety of tasks. Spyderco knives like the Military have incredible resistance to weathering and corrosion, are downright tough as nails especially when utilizing CPM-S30V steel, and are known to simply work, no matter the situation. They are simple, light, sleek, and easy to use, all things that are important in a combat or survival situation.

12. Benchmade Bailout

Benchmade Bailout

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Estimated Price: $225

Blade Steel: CPM 3V
Blade Shape: Tanto
Blade Length: 3.38 Inches
Total Length: 8.07 Inches
Opening Mechanism: Thumb Stud
Locking Mechanism: AXIS Locker
Handle Composition: Grivory
Weight: 2.05 Ounces

My Review: The Bailout from Benchmade is one of my top favorite pocket knives and is also a favorite among military personnel because it’s so ridiculously lightweight and yet incredibly strong and useful. If you don’t like the assisted opening found on the barrage but you still want that coveted Tanto blade, the Bailout is an equally alluring choice.

Something you’ll notice immediately after opening the box and sliding the knife out of that Benchmade sleeve is how this knife feels like a feather in the hand. The handles especially just feel like they are nearly weightless, yet the blade is a hefty 3.38 Inch CPM 3V monster capable of hard use and heavy abuse. I would say that the Bailout is one of the best all-around knives to carry with a load of other gear because it’s insanely strong but impeccably lightweight, adding seemingly nothing to your already heavy loadout.

13. Benchmade Barrage 583

Benchmade Barrage 583

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Estimated Price: $155

Blade Steel: 154CM
Blade Shape: Tanto
Opening Mechanism: Assisted Opening – AXIS Assist
Locking Mechanism: AXIS Locker
Handle Composition: Valox
Weight: 4.51 Ounces

My Review: The Benchmade Barrage is an assisted opening little beast of a pocket knife that encompasses the ever-so-popular body armor-piercing Tanto blade. What a lot of people really like about the Barrage is how fast and easy it is to operate with one hand and how incredibly strong this little pocket knife really is. The AXIS lock is among the most trustworthy locks in the industry and 154CM is a downright workhorse of a steel with exceptional strength and durability.

Sure, these are quite expensive for a pocket knife, but when it comes to trusting your gear, the Benchmade Barrage is an all-around excellent piece of hardware to carry into harsh environments.

14. CRKT M21 (SF Series)

CRKT M21 Special Forces Series

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Estimated Price: $85

Blade Steel: AUS-8
Blade Shape: Spear Point
Blade Length: 3.99 Inches
Total Length: 9.25 Inches
Opening Mechanism: Unassisted Thumb Stub / Dual Hilt Flipper
Locking Mechanism: Liner Locker
Handle Composition: Aluminum
Weight: 5.70 Ounces

My Review: The M21 is the poster child for tactical use pocket knives and is directly designed and crafted to be as usable and versatile as possible in a tactical use environment. The CRKT M21 is a low cost but high performer and comes in a variety of options. A lot of people choose to use these knives because of how durable they are and the long-lasting reputation CRKT has for developing knives that are tough and very much so capable in the field.

These knives were designed by Kit Carson, a famous knife maker but also a Master Sergeant with a ton of military history. I can tell you from first-hand experience that these knives are hefty and do weigh quite a bit compared to the other pocket knives on this list, however, are perfect for hard use and daily abuse.

15. Zero Tolerance 0452CF

Zero Tolerance 0452CF

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Estimated Price: $210

Blade Steel: CPM S35VN
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 4.13 Inches
Total Length: 9.30 Inches
Opening Mechanism: KVT Ball Bearing Flipper
Locking Mechanism: Kershaw Frame Lock
Handle Composition: Carbon Fiber
Weight: 3.84 Ounces

My Review: Zero Tolerance has a reputation for being expensive, tough, and extremely rugged. These knives kick flashy attributes to the curb and encompass only the most tried and true points of design to create a knife that is reliable and trustworthy no matter the circumstances.

You’ll find a wide variety of ZT knives in the load outs of military personnel so make sure you look further than just the 0452CF, but with that said, this knife is an incredible workhorse. With a thin but insanely strong CPM S35VN blade, these will last a lifetime of abuse in any environment and of course, carbon fiber scales make these knives exceptionally lightweight but insanely durable.

16. Microtech Combat Troodon

Microtech Combat Troodon Knife

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Estimated Price: $500-$2000

Blade Steel: M390 / Elmax / CTS 204P
Blade Shape: Spear Point
Blade Length: 3.81 Inches
Total Length: 9.50 Inches
Opening Mechanism: Out-The-Front (OTF)
Locking Mechanism: Fixed OTF Locker
Handle Composition: 6061-T6 Aluminum
Weight: 5.30 Ounces

My Review: The Combat Troodon was good enough for John Wick so it must be good enough for Special Forces, right? Jokes aside, this is the knife many of us as kids dreamed of as we grew up and yes, these really are used by Special Forces, and yes, one really was used by John Wick, check it out. Alright alright, so he didn’t even deliver the final blow with his own knife but hey, better to use the enemy’s knife than to get your own thousand dollar MicroTech all gunked up, am I right?

Hollywood aside, the Combat Troodon is by far one of the most notorious and overall well-respected “Out the Front” knives and with that hefty reputation comes a pretty hefty price tag. Despite being insanely expensive, these things are pretty cool, and more than just the cool factor, they come in some of the best steel technology has offered up thus far. Now, I haven’t gotten hands-on with the Elmax version yet but what I’ve seen from the M390 variants is more than impressive and of course, performs just on par with what you’d expect from an ultra-expensive super steel.

OTF knives are interesting little creatures. On one hand, they do seem to be pretty dang cool in a tactical sense with how fast you can deploy the blade, and, let’s be real, the sound is horrifying to your enemies.

It’s hard to really pick these apart because they’re so fun to use but in real life, they do suffer from issues with getting gummed up and don’t even get me started on using them in the desert. As soon as they get sandy, they get cranky. As long as you can keep these clean they shouldn’t disappoint you but you should be aware that these are really only designed specifically to be used in combat and aren’t great knives for outdoors usage.

17. Gerber Mark II

Gerber Mark 2 Knife

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Estimated Price: $160

Blade Steel: 420 High Carbon
Blade Shape: Double Edge Spear Point
Blade Length: 6.50 Inches
Total Length: 12.75 Inches
Handle Composition: Aluminum
Weight: 8.00 Ounces

My Review: Designed by Army Captain Bud Holzman, the Gerber Mark II is one of the most legendary knives on this list because it encompasses a long-standing history of being used in some of the most brutal combat situations and extreme climates. A lot of people buying these often get them due to the cool factor and its long-standing history but then face a dilemma of being slightly upset with the quality and usability.

The Gerber Mark II is an all-out fighting knife, it was never designed to be used as a camp knife, hatchet, widdler, etc. I don’t know why so many people expect a 6.5” dagger to be useful for much outside of eliminating enemy threats and for most regular people, that’s not something dealt with on a daily basis. These knives are generally going to be more of a collectors knife or display case queen to the majority of those who buy them. For the rest of us, the Mark II is a rather hefty but reliable defense mechanism.

Gerber has been known to be all over the place when it comes to quality control for the Mark II, which is probably its only downside. If you get a bad one, well, you send it back, but for almost everyone nowadays, the Mark II is an excellent dagger that will do the job and Gerber really has come a long way in terms of delivering consistently decent products.

Is this the right knife for you? I can’t answer that, but I can say with confidence that our military personnel have carried thousands of these knives into combat and have been pleasantly pleased with its overall form and performance.

18. Bark River Bravo 1.5 Field LT

Bark River Bravo 1.5 Field LT

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Estimated Price: $300

Blade Steel: A-2
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 4.25 Inches
Total Length: 9.07 Inches
Handle Composition: Micarta
Weight: 7.38 Ounces

My Review: The Bark River Bravo series has a very long history of being equipped for combat situations and I really think this comes down to its raw simplicity and exceptional quality of materials. There isn’t anything fancy or tacticool about these knives, they could fit right in with your grandpa’s hunting get-up.

Yeah, they’re a little expensive for some of us, at three hundred bucks or more, but what you get here is a super steel-wielding little monster of a knife all packaged up to look none the wiser. CPM-3V encompasses ridiculous levels of strength while being a steel that’s among the best in the business for reliability and durability. The micarta handles these knives come with are of incredible quality, they feel great in the hand, don’t lend themselves to being flashy, but are just as durable and resistant to damage as the super steel these knives come with.

Sure, the price tag is high, but these knives have what it takes to outlast several lives of cheaper knives, so is it really so expensive? Well, if you’re hard on your equipment and demand the integrity of some of the best materials the knife world has to offer, I’d most certainly say yes. These knives will last a lifetime if taken care of and can be used in pretty much any situation.

The Field LT version of this knife is a slightly lighter overall package and has achieved a lesser weight by making the blade a little thinner, which is perfectly fine considering how tough and strong CPM-3V steel is. Overall, many military personnel really enjoy the LT versions and so that’s what I would recommend to most people looking to grab a Bark River Bravo.

19. Benchmade Adamas 375

Benchmade Adamas 375

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Estimated Price: $150

Blade Steel: D2
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 4.20 Inches
Total Length: 9.03 Inches
Handle Composition: Skeletonized D2
Weight: 6.20 Ounce

My Review: The Adamas is the epitome of raw-natured blade craftsmanship. The D2 blade is ridiculously sharp out of the box and stays that way for a very long time, much longer than most other blade steels on the market today and overall, the knife is simply just dang near indestructible! Of course, there is no actual handle and you might want to give this a good paracord wrap, but the knife has no failure points other than its extremely durable one-piece steel construction.

Those vicious-looking serrations on the spine of the knife aren’t just for looks, they are among some of my favorite sawtooth serrations on any knife I’ve had. This paired with the ever-so-versatile drop point blade and you have an excellent tool, weapon, and battle buddy ready to go anytime you are. I love how raw the Adamas feels in the hands, it’s like it’s this little tank of a knife that can go anywhere, do anything, and be used in virtually any scenario which is probably why it’s so widely accepted among some of the top operating units in the world.

Of course, a knife like this is going to need a home and Benchmade has you covered there too with a very nice injection molded jump sheath encompassing the 8-point Tek-Lok technology. What’s really cool about these sheaths is that they have tension adjustment so that you can get that perfect release and capture feel.

This knife is so notorious among operators that Benchmade themselves have created a program where a portion of the sale from each Adamas being sold gets donated to the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Three Rangers organization.

20. ESEE JUNGLAS-II

ESEE JUNGLAS II

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Estimated Price: $170

Blade Steel: 1095 Carbon Steel
Blade Shape: Drop Point
Blade Length: 8.38 Inches
Total Length: 14.50 Inches
Handle Composition: Micarta
Weight: 19.80 Ounces

My Review: The JUNGLAS-II is largely one of my favorite knives from ESEE and I think a ton of military personnel from all walks of life would at least agree on its usefulness and versatility. ESEE has been developing knives for military and special forces use for many years now and almost all of their knives are designed specifically to be used in a tactical or survival setting. Needless to say, they won’t be the lightest or the cheapest, but they’re knives you can trust your life on, that’s for sure.

The JUNGLAS-II consists of good ol’ fashion 1095 Carbon steel with a nice black powder coating finish. Of course, if you beat the heck out of these knives like they are intended to be, that black powder coating comes off pretty quickly, but in my experience, the more beat up ESEE knives get, the more they tell the story they were intended to reflect anyways!

This particular knife was named after the Colombian special commando police force that worked to seek out drug operations in the dense jungles of South America. These design attributes, including a highly versatile 8.38 Inch drop point blade that’s a bit front-heavy and gives excellent momentum for cutting through brush in a hurry, makes the knife especially useful for those caught behind enemy lines needing something hefty and sturdy to navigate dense foliage and move quickly.

Another popular large offering from ESEE is the ESEE 6, however, I own both and I recommend the JUNGLAS-II for pretty much every possible scenario you could bring these bad boys into! The JUNGLAS-II comes with an incredible sheath that encompasses a clip plate and MOLLE compatibility.

21. Ontario Knife Company (OKC) M9

Ontario Knife Company (OKC) M9

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Estimated Price: $150

Blade Steel: 420 Stainless Steel
Blade Shape: Clip Point
Blade Length: 7.00 Inches
Total Length: 12.25 Inches
Handle Composition: Nylon/Thermoplastic
Weight: 15.20 Ounces

My Review: Any bayonet fan knows about the M9 and to be frank, the original Buck Phrobis bayonets are pretty unbeatable, even by today’s standards, but in terms of affordable and available M9 style bayonets that aren’t collector’s pieces, these by OKC are the best. OKC has long had a military contract with the US Army selling several of their models but I do believe the M9 bayonet is among the most demanded products they offer.

I will say, something a lot of people are surprised about when they first get their OKC M9 bayonet is how dull they are. I think this comes from a bit of a misunderstanding of what a bayonet is designed to do. These are not slicers, skinners, or shavers, these are meant to be plunged into the sternum of your enemy and you really don’t need a sharp blade to do that but instead, a thick and sturdy blade. These are insanely thick and heavy-duty, they serve their purpose exactly how they are delivered and, if you really want to, you can always sharpen them up and get a razor-sharp edge.

The M9 Bayonet system was originally designed to fit on AR platforms such as the M4, M16, and AR-15 style rifles but, if you take a look around the world wide web, you’ll find people attaching these bad boys on all sorts of boomsticks.

The scabbard is a pretty nifty little tool as well as it comes with a flathead screwdriver on the end of it and when the bayonet and scabbard are together they can act as handy dandy wire-cutters! Aside from that, the holster has a quick release that is very nice, much nicer than most of the competitor’s quick-release options of today.

22. Winkler Knives WK001

Winkler Knives WK001

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Estimated Price: $400

Blade Steel: 80CRV2 High Carbon Steel
Blade Shape: Modified Clip Point
Blade Length: 5.00 Inches
Total Length: 9.25 Inches
Handle Composition: Maple Wood
Weight: 14.20 Ounces

My Review: Winkler knives, albeit on the pricier side, are a very popular choice among knife enthusiasts in special forces. Why? Because they’re the cool thing to have and Winkler himself has garnered an excellent reputation in terms of creating and crafting knives that are exceptionally reliable during CQB operations. A lot of special forces operators rave about their Winkler knives and how they performed during operations and, to the knife nuts in the ops, Winkler has simply gotten a reputational boost from being trusted and used in some high profile situations.

Now, of course, word of mouth and reputation isn’t the only thing Winkler knives have to offer. These knives are made with extreme care and attention to detail and many who carry them will tell you they are the only knives they’ll ever carry again. Do they use the latest and greatest super steel? Not exactly, but the form, ergonomics, edge geometry, weight, and overall design are specifically crafted to be ideal for use in combat situations. This kind of detail and thought isn’t commonly found among popular retail knives but is moreso a special consideration of an enthusiast knife craftsman.

Buying a Winkler knife is kind of like buying a high-end name-brand piece of clothing. Could you get something close in quality for a significantly lower price? Yes, you could, but the peace of mind knowing that each piece is crafted with you in mind, as opposed to profit margins, and the extra bit of care and thought put into its design to make it not only stand out but really appeal to those that have the urge to direct attention to the little things makes these a special kind of knife whose reputation exceeds the standard market of knives that most people carry. I linked to a specific knife, the WK001, and although it’s an exceptional knife, I really implore anyone to check out the other knives Winkler has to offer as well, as most of them are made with a specific use case in mind which will obviously vary depending on who you are and what you do.

23. Ka-Bar BK9 Becker Combat Bowie

Ka-Bar BK9 Becker Combat Bowie

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Estimated Price: $120

Blade Steel: 1095 Cro-Van
Blade Shape: Clip Point / Bowie
Blade Length: 9.00 Inches
Total Length: 14.75 Inches
Handle Composition: Grivory
Weight: 17.28 Ounces

My Review: 1095 Cro-Van, what in the world is that? Well, it’s 1095 but with Cro and Van added, make sense? What if I said the Cro stands for chromium and the Van stands for vanadium? So, it’s similar to the regular 1095 but it’s a bit harder and tougher because of the additional material which makes for a blade that can be super sharp, much sharper than anything you could get with a regular 1095, and it’s got some pretty good wear resistance that makes it an excellent daily beater knife.

1095 Cro-Van is still a carbon steel and just like all carbon steels, it will rust if not taken care of but there is a silver lining, these blades hold edges very well and are also super easy to sharpen in the field which is probably why they’re a popular choice of servicemen all over the world.

Bowie knives and their combat usefulness do extend past what you see in the movies and this knife specifically performs well across the board. The blade does feel a slight bit top-heavy but in many cases that favor the Bowie, this is actually a good thing.

Unlike some of the Ka-Bar lineup, the BK9s are actually full tang which makes them considerably more reliable. Sure, it’s on the expensive side especially for Ka-Bar standards but I think the extra money spent is well worth the exceptional performance these knives encompass, especially for sticky situations a Special Forces operator could find themselves in.

24. Ka-Bar Full-Size Fighting Knife

Ka-Bar Full Size Fighting Knife

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Estimated Price: $75

Blade Steel: 1095 Carbon Steel
Blade Shape: Clip Point
Blade Length: 7.00 Inches
Total Length: 11.75 Inches
Handle Composition: Leather
Weight: 11.20 Ounces

My Review: Hey look, it’s probably the most recognizable fighting knife to ever exist, the Ka-Bar Marine Corps fighting knife! Alright, maybe not the most recognizable, I don’t know, I haven’t polled people to find that out, but I will say that it’s pretty dang popular, pretty dang cheap, and pretty dang available.

The Ka-Bar fighting knife isn’t the best at anything, especially fighting, but it’s got a long heritage of being utilized by the military and not just the Marine Corps but all over the place, and it’s a pretty good deal for both the enlisted and the civilians.

1095 Carbon steel isn’t a super steel by any means but it is a tried and true blade material that is easy to work with and cheap to manufacture, allowing Ka-Bar to keep these knives well under a hundred bucks while making for a pretty great tool in just about any combat or self-defense scenario.

What’s pretty neat about the relatively inexpensive 1095 carbon steel is that it’s actually fairly soft compared to most other high-quality steels used in making blades and although this has its drawbacks, it actually makes perfect sense for a fighting knife because it will resist shattering or snapping if it comes into contact with something like hard body armor. It’s true, harder steels do have advantages, like far greater edge retention, but in the instance that you have to utilize this knife against another living being, it doesn’t really matter if the edge is perfectly sharp, what matters is that the blade remains intact throughout your fight.

I will say, they aren’t the greatest bushcraft knives ever made and they won’t last as long as a more expensive super steel equipped knife such as something you’d find from Fallkniven but all-in-all, the purpose of these knives is to look ominous and destroy immediate threats and that’s exactly what they’ll do! This probably isn’t a knife you’d find many special forces units carrying, but due to reputation, I figured it was worth adding to the list!

MultiTools

The below are simply popular choices from the brands but do not reflect the only options available as there are literally hundreds of great multitools. Most military personnel carrying multitools are choosing them specifically for the set of tools they have and how they match up with the tasks ahead. If you’d like to see more multitools and read about the Marine Approved Multi-tools list, head over to the Marine Approved multitools guide!

25. Leatherman Super Tool

Leatherman Super Tool

Estimated Price: $90

Handle Composition: Stainless Steel
Weight: 9.60 Ounces

26. Gerber MP600

Gerber MP600

Estimated Price: $50

Handle Composition: Stainless Steel
Weight: 9.00 Ounces

27. Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Swiss Champ XLT

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Swiss Champ XLT

Estimated Price: $230

Handle Composition: Synthetic ABS Cellidor
Weight: 8.68 Ounces

If you’re here to find out what knives are used in the Special Forces because you think they always use or are issued the best knives and those are the knives you want to get for yourself, think again! Sometimes knives used in the Special Forces are far from the best quality, reliability, value, and performance and have simply been chosen due to affordability, personal preference, or simply just being what’s available to them in a pinch. Many civilians think that the people risking their lives for our freedom and Democracy are always equipped with the best gear and they would be terribly mistaken!

What Makes a Knife Appealing to a Special Forces Operator?

In this section, we’ll discuss the attributes of a knife that may make it appealing for special operations use. f you’d like to learn in-depth information about knives then I’d like to direct you to the Marine Approved guides on knife steels, knife shapes, knife blade grinds, and knife handle materials.

After reading through our guides on knives, you should have an excellent idea of what makes a knife good for your specific applications and what attributes might impact a Special Forces operator’s decision on what knife goes into their load-outs. Never take the opinion of someone else, even someone in the Special Forces, on what knife is best for you. Educating yourself on the attributes of a knife and choosing a knife whose attributes match your specific use case is the only way you’ll find the perfect knife.

Blade Steel

Knives being used in any type of combat have to be tough but toughness is kind of subjective and there are many other attributes one must consider before choosing a new knife to add to their loadout. Many of the best knives found in combat are going to consist of a reputable high carbon steel or a powdered metallurgy steel (CPM). In a combat environment, knives are almost guaranteed to get wet and be exposed to the weather, making a lot of steel choices that resist corrosion, such as H1, VG-10, or N690 but a lot of the CPM steels also perform well in this category.

High carbon steels like 1095 make for very strong blades but often need to be kept dry and oiled otherwise they risk corroding very quickly. Stainless steels like 440 have less overall strength but have additional chromium in the mix over carbon steels making them less prone to corrosion and more weather resistant, so the tradeoff here is overall strength versus longevity and maintenance. Which one is better? Well, it depends on the environment, task at hand, if there is time to properly maintain gear, and many other factors as well.

Blade Shape

The shape of a knife found in a special operator’s knife needs to be something of both utility and lethality. You won’t find many trailing points, Sheepsfoot, Wharncliffe, or Assist blades simply because they are purpose-built for tasks that your average special forces operator isn’t going to endure during a combat operation.

The blade shapes you can expect to find on the knife of a special forces operator are going to be the drop point due to its exceptional versatility, the spear point or needlepoint due to their incredible piercing and thrusting capabilities, Tanto for their long history of combat performance especially against body armor, or Talon blades found on Karambits that, albeit rarer than the aforementioned, are a favorite among heavily trained CQB operators.

Handle Composition

For the most part, handle material choice is going to be a personal preference choice. Many handle types, like Micarta, G10, or any fiberglass-based handles are going to be among the most popular due to their strength, reliability, and durability. Almost all special forces operators are going to be using strong and reputable synthetic handles as they are the obvious choice in longevity and resistance to weathering.

Weight

The average special forces operator is carrying roughly $65,000 worth of gear into combat. That’s a lot of stuff and with every piece of gear comes a considerable detriment of movement and maneuverability, as well as additional noise and addition to your silhouette in the dark. Many people believe special forces operators are toting around knives like what you’d see in Rambo, but the truth is that most operators prefer the smallest package that is capable of getting the job done because steel is extremely heavy. The less steel carried, the faster an operator can transverse the environment with less energy expended.

If you want recommendations on what knives might suit your needs, check out the Marine Approved guides on knives such as the best fixed blades, self-defense knives, or even our guide on the best EDC knives! In many cases, Special Forces operators are going to be using their knives primarily for utility and survival a lot more than they would use them for combat which would have me recommending our survival knives list if you’re interested in knives for those purposes.

Wrap Up:

Let us know what you think of this list and if there are any knives we should add in the comments below.

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