Are Pocket Knives Good for Self-Defense?

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Whenever people think of self-defense, there are two main weapons that generally come to mind: firearms and knives. Today I’m going to be talking a little bit about the second one, knives. More specifically, the debated question surrounding whether or not pocket knives are good for self-defense or not.

Pocket knives are popular and ideal weapons for self-defense. However, to be used effectively, the user must be very skillful and have been trained to use a knife for self-defense. So while knives are good for self-defense in general, they will be useless if you don’t know how to use them.

While there are a lot of different tools and weapons to choose from in terms of self-defense, pocket knives continue to be some of the most accessible and some of the best for beginners. 

Continue reading as I walk you through what makes a pocket knife an ideal self-defense weapon, why a pocket knife might not be the best choice for you, as well as how to choose the perfect pocket knife for self-defense.

Table of Contents

What Makes a Pocket Knife Ideal for Self-Defense

Pocket knives are ideal for delf defense because of how small, easy to carry, and effective they are. The situations where you need to defend yourself are often very rare and happen at the most unexpected moments. A self-defense weapon is pretty much useless unless you actually have it on you when you are in a situation where it is needed, and pocket knives are very light and easy to carry.

The good thing about pocket knives is that they make excellent self-defense tools but can also be used to complete a variety of other tasks and jobs.

While a larger knife might work a little better than a pocket knife in a self-defense situation just because it has a longer blade, pocket knives are great to carry around with you every day so you will never be caught without your self-defense weapon. 

Pocket knives are also very lightweight and great just to stick in your pocket. At a moment’s notice, you can have your pocket knife out of your pocket because it is so accessible and easy to reach with your hand. This will allow you to respond quickly to a threat, or just cut open that mail at lightning speed.

Another thing that makes pocket knives ideal for self-defense is the fact that there are many different designs of pocket knives and some that are specifically made for self-defense and combat. While combat knives are often cool looking, really any folding knife with a decent blade will work just fine.

The few times you will need a pocket knife for self-defense, the chances are pretty low that you will actually need to harm your attacher. Most of the time, knives are intimidating enough without actually having to use them. So yes, this point might be an excuse to find the coolest and scariest looking pocket knife for everyday carry.

Downsides to Pocket Knives for Self-Defense

The main downside to pocket knives for self-defense is the fact that it takes a considerable amount of skill and practice to be able to effectively use a pocket knife to defend yourself.

While practically anyone can swing around a sharp blade widely, to be truly effective in self-defense with a knife, you have to practice and learn how. There are many different ways to learn about knife self-defense such as watching videos on the internet, taking a local in-person course, taking an online course, as well as many more options.

Other than the fact that it takes skill and practice to wield a knife in self-defense, there arnt many downsides to pocket knives as self-defense weapons.

It is important to note, however, that using a knife to defend yourself is often considered deadly force. If you are not in life-threatening danger, it is best to try to solve any conflict peacefully. If you just go around swinging a pocket knife everywhere, there can be serious legal repercussions.

Things to Look for in a Great Self-Defense Pocket Knife

I mentioned earlier that there are knives made and designed specifically for combat and self-defense, but almost any knife will do just fine. However, there are a few features that a lot of great self-defense knives all have in common.

While the features that I’m about to talk about aren’t absolutely necessary for every self-defense knife, knives with these features will probably work best in a self-defense situation. 

These features of a good self-defense knife are good to consider whether you are choosing a knife to purchase, choosing which knife from your collection to carry, or just interested in what makes a good self-defense pocket knife.

Opening System

One of the biggest considerations for a knife that is intended for self-defense is the opening system of the blade. 

Traditional friction opening pocket knives are not that great because they don’t have a locking system that will keep the blade of the knife either closed or open. If you are ever in any sort of physical encounter that involves a knife, a lock that will keep the blade open gives you one less thing to worry about.

If a pocket knife doesn’t have a lock that can keep the blade open, you run the risk of the knife closing when you don’t intend it to. This could be harmful to not only you but also anyone near or around you.


The blade of a pocket knife is also very important when you are considering it to be used potentially for self-defense.

If you are just using your pocket knife for jobs around the house and for everyday carry, you just need a good and durable blade that won’t snap on you. However, for a pocket knife blade that is also for self-defense, you also need to think about how heavy it is as well as the overall quality and durability of the blade.

Most pocket knives that are good for self-defense are a convex grind. Serrated blades and other knife grinds can work if it comes down to it but they are not recommended.


The handle of a self-defense pocket knife should be grippy and easy to keep a grip on. If it is a worst care scenario and you are having to defend yourself with your pocket knife, you need the handle to be grippy so that you don’t drop it or have it slip from your hand.

The best options are probably either a metal handle or a synthetic material handle. With a metal handle on a pocket knife, you need to make sure that there is some sort of grip on it or it is textured in some way to make it easier to hold on to. Synthetic handles are probably the best way to go because they are durable, strong, and often very grippy and easy to hold on to.

While there are many different pocket knife handle options for a pocket knife that is intended for self-defense, the main takeaway is that the handle needs to be easy to grip so you don’t drop it during a physical and intense situation.


Generally, most pocket knives will work just fine for self-defense. The actual number of times where you will need to seriously use a knife to defend yourself is very low, but it is always good to be prepared.

The one main downside to pocket knives as self-defense weapons is that it takes practice and skill to be able to actually defend yourself and not just swing around a sharp blade. Also, using a knife for self-defense is often considered deadly force and can result in a lot of legal trouble if the amount of force was not warranted. Just try to stay away from actually using your pocket knife for self-defense.

An ideal self-defense pocket knife should be small and lightweight for ease of use and carry, as well as being well built and strong. Pay special attention to the handle and opening system of a pocket knife that is to be carried for self-defense, the handle should be easy to hold on to and the opening system should ideally have a blade lock.

Overall, pocket knives make good self-defense weapons but should only be used when absolutely necessary and if you have the capacity to handle the blade well.

Townsen Bell

I'm the founder and primary author at Knife Manual. Over many years, I have become proficient at survival and bushcraft skills through lots of practice and many great teachers. I enjoy spending time outdoors, collecting knives, and learning new skills.

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