Everybody should carry a good knife. Here are my choices for the best cheap tactical knives under $50. Many of these knives are ones that I personally own and are part of my everyday carry rotation. A couple are on my wish list.
What to consider before you pick your knife
Here are some things to consider when you select a tactical knife:
Make sure you know your local laws because this might affect the blade length you choose AND if you plan to carry at work find out if you have any restrictions there as well. Most of the knives in the buyer’s guide below are no loger than 3″.
I prefer a knife that has a textured grip rather than a smooth grip. I use knives in all kinds of weather conditions, so a secure grip in wet weather is a must. Grip materials usually consist of either plastic or nylon.
There are a bunch of different blade steels in all kinds of formulas. Most knives under $50 use an AUS-8 blade steel (or similar). Blade steel in this knife price range is slightly softer – which means it won’t hold an edge as long and will need to be sharpened more often. If you want all of the details on blade steel and blade steel types, I suggest viewing the video below. The blade steel types he lists in the “barely adequate” list are what you’ll find in the under $50 category of knives. Like the guy said he’s a bit of a snob when it comes to blade steel and most of the knives he shows in the video are $100 plus knives. So if you can afford more than $50 go for it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a decent knife under $50.
How it opens:
There are two main ways your tactical folder will open. It will either be spring-assisted or a manual open via a thumb stud or hole in the blade. There are a couple of knives in the under $50 price range designed with an Emerson opener design. This design opens the blade as you draw it from your pocket.
Blade lock design:
Typically, you’ll encounter two different types of blade lock designs. The first is a liner lock. This is probably the most common type of of blade lock design. The second is called a back lock. Back locks are normally considered to be the most secure blade lock design. You’ll find that one-handed blade closing is easier with a liner lock.
There are a wide variety of blade designs. The video below shows many of the blades you’ll find on the knives shown in the buyer’s guide below.
Cheap tactical knives under $50 Buyer’s Guide
In my opinion the Spyderco Tenacious with G10 handle is the knife I suggest to people looking for a cheap tactical everyday carry knife. It’s extremely well made and has a decent blade steel. You can get the Spyderco Tenacious in a variety of styles. It comes with a serrated or non-serrated blade. It has nice ergonomics and is easy to open and close with one hand. The G10 handle is nicely textured and fits securely in the hand. It uses an internal liner lock to secure the blade when open. Plus, it’s a Spyderco – and they are known for making good knives in all price ranges.
The photo above is my personal Spyderco Tenacious and it’s part of my regular EDC rotation.
The Spyderco Cara Cara II is really an interesting knife. I really like how Spyderco made a tactical inspired knife where price is no barrier to entry. This is a larger knife and the Cara Cara II has a blade length of about 3 inches. The blade steel is 8Cr13MoV. To keep the price down the handle is a plastic material NOT the G10 material found on the more expensive version of this knife. What I really like is the blade back lock as it is typically more secure than a liner lock blade. On the downside, the back lock makes one handed closing more difficult. For added grip security this knife features spine and coil jimping. The blade is full flat ground.
The Columbia River Knife and Tools (CRKT) M16 10KSF has been around for awhile. This version of the CRKT M16 knife is an all black oxide finish tanto blade (with serrations). The blade length is 2.9 inches and is made of 8Cr13MoV blade steel. The knife uses a frame lock. The blade is opened using the “Carson Flipper” which doubles as a blade guard when in the opened and locked position. It also has a two position pocket clip. As you can see from the photos the handle has a smooth metal finish. If you think you’ll be using the knife in lots of wet weather conditions, you might want something with a textured finish.
Full video review of features:
I have a full review of the 5.11 Wharn for Duty knife here. I won’t rehash the whole review, but here are some of the key features of this knife:
- Black oxide coated blade and liners
- Injection molded, textured grip
- Lanyard hole
- Engineered in partnership with Mike Vellekamp
- Liner Lock
- 2.85″ blade length
For more information, please refer to my detailed review and photos of the Wharn for Duty.
I have a full review of the Kershaw Shuffle II review here. I won’t rehash the whole review here, but will just share a few of the details.
- Blade Length: 2.6″
- Closed Length: 4″
- Overall Length: 6.3″
- Handle: Glass filled nylon
- Steel: 8Cr13MoV Black Wash finish
- Liner lock
- Thumbstud opening
- Reversible clip
Conclusion – Cheap tactical knives under $50
These are just a few of the many examples of cheap tactical knives under $50. I own and use every one of the knives shown in this post and they are part of my EDC rotation. Cheap doesn’t necessarily have to mean bad. I love high end blades but I also know that people have real-world budgets. It’s true, you may need to touch up these knives more to keep a keen edge on them but that doesn’t mean they can’t be good alternatives when you can’t afford something in the $100 plus range. Carrying a variety of these less expensive tactical knives with differing features and blade designs will help you know exactly what you want when you decide to lay out some big money for a high end knife.