As I have mentioned in a few of my articles, I always carry a blade. The knives I choose to carry are selected based upon certain criteria:

The handle needs to be long enough for a full-hand grip and ergonomic enough to feel somewhat comfortable in the hand. I prefer a handle that feels good in both the standard grip and reverse-hand grip. If the handle is long enough, the end of it could be used as a blunt striking device. My preferred handle material is G10, but I’m not against FRN—fiber-reinforced nylon—or aluminum as long as the manufacturer has done a good job in their manufacturing process.

The blade steel I prefer is 154CM. It’s a proven steel used by manufacturers who demand strength and longevity from their knives. The other two types I have used and approve of are VG10 and AUS8, both Japanese steels. VG10 is considered a premium steel, while the AUS8 is more of a budget steel. AUS8 is a very common steel used by knife manufacturers, and as long as their heat-treating process is good to go, it’s one tough steel that’s easy to maintain and sharpen.

Manufacturers I tend to go for have had a reputable relationship with military SOF units, law enforcement agencies, and are USA-designed and built. That kind of narrows down the options available. For me, I personally go for Emerson Knives on first pass. The next company I usually look to is SOG Knives. Most recently, there is a company by the name of Rat Worx USA that makes a knife called the MRX. The MRX is considered a hard-use auto knife, and they have proven that through their testing process.

A Blade - Have One - Always
A blade: have one. Always. (Image courtesy of kyledefoor.tumblr.com)

Now that we have my criteria defined, let’s take a look at the blades I own, have used, and recommend. All of these knives come in a mini version as well, but I personally prefer the full-size option.

  • Emerson Commander – This is my go-to folder for outdoor activities. After all, it was developed for the Army SERE program and was later refined, becoming a favorite among West Coast SEAL Teams.
  • Emerson CQC-7 – The “7,” as it’s known by the Emerson community, is my favorite everyday carry knife. The design and profile of this knife make it ideal for EDC use.
  • Emerson CQC-8 – This is another favorite of mine for outdoor use. The profile of the blade makes it ideal for camp-type tasks and processing small game. The CQC8 was designed for and used by the British SAS.
  • SOG Vulcan – The SOG Vulcan is a good alternative to the Emerson Commander. The blade profiles are very similar and both boast premium steels. If you want a knife with similar ergonomics and blade profile to the Emerson Commander without the high cost, then this is your knife.
  • Rat Worx MRX – As I said previously, this is by far the toughest auto knife on the market. Just check out the videos on their website. They put this knife through the ringer and it keeps coming back for more. I don’t usually go for automatics or anything with springs due to the failure points, but Rat Worx brings a whole new level of tough auto knives to the table with the MRX.

Most of this has been a collection of my personal preferences and my experiences with these knives. My suggestion to you is to find a good knife from a reputable manufacturer and actually use it. Get to know its strengths and weaknesses. Know how to sharpen and maintain the knife. This doesn’t need to be some super expensive, custom-made blade. If you’re just starting out, I would strongly suggest taking a look at SOG knives. Both the SOG Vulcan and SOG Trident are excellent knives. Remember this: The best knife to have is the one you have on you at the time it’s needed.

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