There are a lot of terrible recommendations for women’s self-defense. Some of it is impractical while other parts are outright dangerous. This is because of the numerous problems surrounding women’s self-defense from clothing to culture to legal requirements.
This brings us to the concept of a self-defense knife. Knives are great tools that fill both a utility role and a self-defensive role. You might not feel comfortable carrying a gun or you might want to supplement your other self-defense items with a knife. It still raises the question “What is the best self-defense knife for a woman?”
Let’s look into the concepts and knives available to you to help you be safer in your day to day life.
The Best Self-defense knife
Knives with blades between 1 inch and 4 inches make great defensive knives. These can either be fixed blades with a concealable sheath or a folding knife. Each option can be carried on the body or on your bag, depending on the knife’s design.
There is a wide variety of knives and other considerations that will determine what you should or should not carry. So we’re going to go over what you need to consider when selecting a knife for self-defense and then give you some options to consider.
Considerations and Knives
Knives are some of the oldest, most intimate, and brutal tools of self-defense in existence. Carrying one requires the recognition that it is a dangerous tool that can be used to kill someone.
Because of this, there are restrictions on where you can carry knives and what knives you can carry with you. But before we get into some of those legal considerations we’re going to go over things we will not be covering today.
We will not be covering spike weapons, non-metallic knives, or G10 weapons. Each of those could have their own books written on them. For us, we will be dealing with knives made out of metal with an edge and/or a point.
With that covered, let’s get into the legal considerations
Because of criminals and the stigma against knives in Western culture and city culture we have a number of restrictions on knives.
This comes down to mostly blade lengths for both fixed blade and folding knives. And opening mechanisms for folding knives.
Because laws differ from place to place we are going to avoid some options. These include gravity knives and switchblades in addition to large fighting knives.
We are also going to assume it is legal for you to carry a knife for self-defense where you are and that the federal blade length requirements are not in force. Always check your local and state laws before selecting a knife for self-defense
This leaves us with knives that have a blade length of 4 inches at the most or 1 inch at the minimum. While some options might feature a 5 inch blade, this is starting to push limits of concealability and legal allowance.
But enough about that, let’s look at the methodologies you have to consider before selecting a knife.
When a knife is brought out, the situation has escalated to a potentially lethal scenario. And it can escalate even further after that.
Many useful knife defense techniques will use a knife to create space for you to escape. This will either be through eliminating the threat at worst and at best causing enough damage to your attacker to get away from the area.
Always supplement your knife choice with training. There are a number of different systems out there but some of the better ones are provided by Shivworks, Libre Fighting Schools, and legitimate Krav Maga schools.
If none of those fit for you, you can take other martial arts training but be sure that knives are part of the base system, rather than a potential supplement. A system that in theory might work with a knife does not always hold up as well as a system that focuses on the use of a knife with their techniques.
Once you have selected which style you want to train in, be sure to supplement your training with sparring using training weapons. This will help you get better at the system and see what does and does not work.
This brings us to carry methods.
The best self-defense knife is the one you have with you when you need to defend yourself. This means you need to have the knife with you and have it easily accessible. But access isn’t always easily achieved.
This is because of clothing. Women’s fashion has wronged women by denying them useful pockets if there are any pockets at all on a given piece of clothing. This means you have to find creative ways to store self defense tools on your person.
There are two major carry methods that can be adopted: Off-body carry and On-body carry.
Off-body carry is simple. The knife will be in your purse/bag or attached to it. This is the less ideal method because it can cause you to be easily separated from where you are keeping your knife. However it can sometimes be the only option available.
On-body carry is the better option but can be harder to do. A special sheath or the clip of a folding knife can be used to attach the knife to your clothing. This ideally will be your waistband, but pockets also work.
If that isn’t an option, sometimes additional “clothing” items might need to be added to your wardrobe. These include special harnesses for knife carry or belly band holsters that allow for better storage options.
Neck knives are also another option. These small fixed blade knives are generally worn like a necklace, but have the downside of moving around like a necklace which can hamper your access to the knife.
There is a knife for everything, but when it comes to self-defense knives we tend to have three types of knives: Slashing knives, Stabbing knives, and combination knives.
Slashing knives are designed to be effective cutting tools. Techniques with these knives emphasize cuts or slashes which can create openings to escape.
Stabbing knives focus more on piercing. They are more lethally effective and work great on thick clothing.
Combination knives have the abilities of the other two styles but not as emphasized. They have the ability for both but not to the extent that the specialized versions have.
Most self-defense knives are combination knives or stabbing knives. This is because slashing needs a larger edge to actually be lethally effective, but you’re not getting that necessary edge on a 4 inch blade.
A blade of that size will still cut and slash effectively but the more lethal aspects will come down to slash location, and require even more effort than a stabbing style knife.
The use of a knife is generally determined by its blade. There are dozens of different blade types and variations but for self-defense there are a number of very basic knife styles that will work.
Since a combination knife is our best bet, followed by stabbing knives, we need a blade style that features a point and an edge.
This covers a large number of knives which means you have a lot of options. So we’re going to go over some of the major styles before we get into some of the top choices.
Straight back blades
Very common, with a good hybrid between piercing ability and cutting ability.
Clip point/bowie blades
These styles of blades maintain a piercing point but have a better cutting ability than the straight back.
Variations of the clip can make the tip of the blade more aggressive. Turkish style clip points have extremely aggressive points while California clip points are more utility, or durability driven.
This style of blade is thrust centric. It does have cutting ability but it mostly emphasizes stabbing motions.
Spear point style knives have less utility and are more defensive or offensive in design.
Above is a dagger type blade
Above is a spear point or bayonet point blade.
Taken from Japanese style blades, tanto blades can be either aggressively pointed, slightly curved, or reinforced.
Depending on the tanto design, they can be extremely well balanced for slashing and stabbing. This follows the more traditional tanto style.
The American tanto style emphasizes stabbing, but tends to feature a reinforced point.
Folding knives are some of the most popular knives available. They range from affordable to blindingly expensive depending on where you get them.
The higher priced versions can be extremely reliable and durable in a variety of uses but the lower priced option will work well as defensive knives.
These knives are great, especially if they have a belt clip. This allows you to stash the knife where you need it without any extra purchases. If the clip is tight enough it can be attached to your waistband, pocket, or somewhere in your purse.
All that needs to be done is to draw and open the knife as needed. The opening of the knife can cause problems. Especially under stress. This makes folding knives less ideal but they are a more complete package with one purchase.
There are two opening methods that don’t usually have legal restrictions to them: Manual opening and spring assisted opening.
Most pocket knives that you’ll find are going to be manual opening. This means you provide all the power to open them.
This is usually facilitated by a stud, hole, or a disk located on the back of the blade. And with practice you can learn to open a manual knife quite quickly. I won’t be as fast as a switchblade or fixed blade knife but it’s faster than some expect.
Spring assisted knives are often confused with switchblades. This is because they open very quickly with minimum effort.
That’s because once you start to manually open the knife a small spring takes over and forces the blade out. This is entirely different from a switchblade’s mechanism. If you don’t want it to be confused for one then don’t select one as your carry knife.
Fixed blades are the better option when it comes to self-defense knives. They are immediately ready for use once they are drawn, generally accessible, and come in a wide variety of price ranges.
They can range from specialty knives like punch daggers to the most basic kitchen knife. If you have a particular design in mind, someone has probably made it.
Many of their blade styles fall within our top choices with the most popular being straight back, bowie, and tanto.
Spear point or dagger blades aren’t found on knives and are more found on bayonets or… daggers. Their specialty design is prized in certain circles, but they are less likely to be found easily “out in the wild”.
Standard fixed blade
Standard fixed blades can come in any number of sizes. Some are tiny 2 inch blades all the way up to 4 inch paring knives.
While tactical knives are generally prized as self-defense knives, a good rule to remember is that if a knife works on meat it will work on someone. This is why kitchen knives and similar knives are adopted for street crime.
Additionally, some higher end knives are over built to endure excessive stress. This can be a benefit, but in a pinch the low cost knife can be effective.
The drawback to these types of knives is that a sheath needs to be acquired or made for them. Depending on which option you choose, some may come with a sheath while others might need an additional purchase to get a concealed carry sheath.
Some cheaper kitchen knives feature a cheap plastic sheath that can be co-opted for concealed carry. This isn’t too hard, but can pose a minor inconvenience.
Neck knives are a special subdivision of normal knives. These knives tend to be in favor with the bushcraft community because of their ease of carry and compact size.
Due to their tiny nature, you will find them with blades ranging from 2 inches to 3 inches. Although longer versions exist.
These knives generally come with their own sheaths and a cord/tether in order to wear it around your neck. This allows you to keep a knife with you despite not having a purse or pockets. The only drawback is how freely it might swing around.
Now let’s look at your options. We’re going to take two considerations for these options. The first consideration is that you want a good option that will work. The second consideration is that you might have a budget to stay in.
Because of the second consideration we’re going to give you two groups of options: Affordable and Higher End.
The Affordable options will be good, but not necessarily up to the quality or durability of the Higher End.
The Affordable options will be a strange mix of quality and usefulness. Some Affordable options are actually ideal for a woman’s self-defense knife, but are more single use “Use it and lose it” items.
This is because the Affordable options are “Ditch Knives”. The term Ditch Knife applies to the disposable weapons adopted by certain criminals.
While you won’t be using these types of knives in the same way, it is always good to understand where the popularity for them comes from.
Let’s get into some of your options.
Folding Knife Options
Certain areas do not allow the carry of fixed blades while allowing folding knives to be carried. This means many times the folding knife is your only legal option.
A lot of folding knives from hardware stores, and sometimes gas stations, are decent options. But stay away from the overly fancy blade designs and you should be good.
1. Browning Prism II Liner Lock Knife Teal (2.5” Satin)
This highly affordable knife offers a plane blade with very nice looking handles. Coming in a wide variety of colors to fit your tastes, it provides a thumb stud opening and straight backed blade.
The finish is not as durable as others but the blade shape is perfect for light tasks and defense. The Prism II is well under $30 and comes in some cute colors.
2. Schrade Folding Knife Frame Lock Knife Stainless Steel (2.625” Gray)
Schrade knives are very good quality for what they are. Depending on where you shop they can be extremely affordable.
This model features a number of benefits. A simple blade design with minimalist serrations is combined with a two sided thumb stud. This allows for it to be opened with either hand.
The blade profile itself offers good cutting potential while retaining a decent point. Coming in at just over 2 ½ inches, this knife has a safe bet of being legal in most areas.
To top it all off, it is also a nice looking knife. Other variations have different colors and blade shapes which will allow you to find the one that suits you.
3. Milwaukee Fastback series
The Milwaukee Fastback series offers a variety of blade shapes and even a spring assisted version.
They fall under the $30 or $40 mark and have questionable quality. They dull easily and the hawkbill design can break.
An additional concern is the flick open design. This might place it into the “gravity knife” category which are generally restricted in most areas.
The spring assisted version is a good option, but might be restricted by availability.
1. CRKT CEO Flipper
This is an elegant design from CRKT’s folder line. The CEO Flipper is a light knife designed to be carried comfortably in light clothing.
The blade comes in at 3.35 inches and features a narrow profile perfect for stabbing and slashing. It can be opened quickly and easily with either hand which is important when considering a folding knife for self-defense.
The major drawback is the price. Generally coming in at $40, it is not the most expensive knife but it might be more than you are willing to spend.
2. 4” TI-LITE-ZY-EX
This stiletto style blade is the more affordable version of Cold Steel’s TI-LITE series. This knife is very good at piercing while still maintaining a sharp edge.
While the blade design lacks utility it is optimized for self-defense. The blade is 4 inches long which places it at the upper end of our blade range. A 6 inch version also exists if you want to go the extra mile, but it is not necessary.
While these are great knives, their price tag is a little steep. They can fall into the $50 to $150 range depending on where you buy them and what materials are used in their construction.
This ZY-EX version can still land closer to $100 in price, so it’s best to shop around for the best deal.
3. CRKT Heiho
This folding knife is the golden average of self-defense folding knives. It has the ability to be truly ambidextrous, has good cutting/stabbing ability, and features assisted opening.
The best part is that it is also not too expensive. It is generally between $40 and $60, but because of its popularity it can be quickly out of stock. Pre-ordering is an option but waiting for something to defend yourself is not ideal.
This knife falls right in the sweet spot of our blade lengths. The blade is just slightly over 3 inches. Combined with a traditional tanto style blade, this folder has the ability to cut and pierce well above its size.
On top of this, it’s a very good looking knife. It’s not overly tactical and has a classy style to it that does not scream “weapon”.
Fixed blade Options
The fixed blade options allow for more lee-way in regards to effectiveness and cost. While some more expensive options will outperform other options, do not be fooled into thinking that higher prices equal performance.
Some of the cheaper kitchen knives have better cutting ability than some higher end knives.
We’re going to focus exclusively on single edged knives. This is because of legal reasons, because many locations do not allow double-edged blades or daggers.
1. Victorinox Paring Knife and Fruit Knife
The victorinox brand offers a number of options that can be co opted for self-defense. These are mostly the paring knives and the fruit knives.
Extremely affordable, generally being less than $10 plus tax straight from the manufacturer, these knives are usually the go to for low cost self-defense.
They are not as durable as a full tang knife or a higher cost knife, but they are durable enough to be used. Technique comes into play a lot with these types of knives, especially with the fruit knife.
The singular drawback to these knives is that they do not come with a sheath. This means you either have to make one from sourced materials or order a sheath from sheath makers.
2. Pioneer Woman Paring Knife
These knives are another great option. A little more expensive than the Victorinox options, but currently more available. They offer a stronger design with a full tang.
They come in two overall styles, which means if you want to get a sheath for them, that sheath needs to be set for that design otherwise it won’t work.
The blade shape is great. It offers more utility than the fruit knife style while meeting our needs for the ability to cut and stab.
The handle is ergonomic and has a small projection near the base of the handle to help you control the knife better.
3. Schrade Pocket Money/Card Clip Fixed blade knife
This adorable little knife is perfect if you don’t have a lot of space to keep it. Overall it is just under 2 inches.
This means it will fit just about anywhere on your person and in your purse. Knives this small are more about creating space and getting away from an attacker. “Cut and run” are the main tactics with this knife.
If you’re uncomfortable with carrying larger knives this is the option for you. It also doesn’t break the bank falling in the $10 to $20 range depending on where you shop.
1. CRKT Obake
The Obake from CRKT is a phenomenal little blade. Taking the traditional tanto style and making it pointier, the Obake offers an extremely sharp blade and point.
The Obake comes with a sheath and lanyard for carrying it. This allows you to keep this blade within reach.
The Obake features an ergonomic curve to it. This allows for better grip and for more emphasized cuts.
Two drawbacks to the Obake are that the sheath is not efficient and the handle features a very rough cord. The cord’s roughness is meant for extra grip but can rub uncomfortably against the skin. This can be mitigated by layering clothing or off-body carry.
On the more expensive side, the Obake sits between $40 to $60 dollars. A smaller version called the Obake Skoshi exists but it might be harder to find than a regular sized Obake.
2. CRKT Minimalist series
The Minimalist series offers a number of great options for neck knives. The Bowie, Wharncliffe, and Tanto versions are the best options.
These small blades offer sharpness in a small package. They come with multiple carry options. A lanyard cord for wearing it as a neck knife and a belt clip for use with a belt. Other options can be made with some effort with minimal cost.
The Minimalist series does not offer multiple grip options because of the finger grooves. This can be worked around but does not allow ambidextrous use. These fall around $40, with prices subject to change.
3. Cold Steel Spike Series
These blades fall on the upper end of our knife limits, at 4 inches. These larger neck knives offer very practical designs for their blades.
Any of the styles will do well as a self-defense knife. They are more affordable than other options but are also a little hard to conceal at 8 inches overall.
The price range is still within the $20 to $50 range. But for the amount of knife you get for the price it is worth it.
If you’re looking for a larger self-defense option with a neck knife capability, this is one of the best versions out there.
Women’s self defense knives are often marketed as cutesy accessories with little concern for their actual effectiveness. Many of the options offered today are more for their effectiveness than their looks.
Although looks are a major factor in selecting some of these options, it is not the most important factor. However blade options like the Obake can be very good looking blades. You have to weigh the looks of the knife with the potential defensive ability it has.
Hopefully this article has given you an idea of what to select for your own self-defense knife or has given you a good starting point to find one that suits you better.
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