|Top: Author's Benchmade Mini Onslaught out of box.
Bottom: With clip modification and lanyard.
The everyday carry (EDC) folding knife has become a staple both in society and the modern personal protection community. Each individual chooses such a tool based on a variety of criteria, including blade type, length, design, and clip orientation. A myriad of excellent tactical and non-tactical folding knives are available, with many carried for daily tasks but equally as many carried with the idea that the folding knife can serve as a force multiplier during a critical personal protection incident.
Over the last ten years, extreme close quarters (zero to five feet) training has identified inherent weaknesses associated with folding knife deployment during close quarters contact. Access and deployment of the folding knife under the pressure of one or more attackers are highly stressful and a borderline fine motor skill set depending on the attributes of the specific folding knife. Small fixed-blade knives have become extremely popular because they eliminate the need to “deploy” the blade in-fight. However, carry of fixed-blade knives is still considered taboo by many or unrealistic based on the operational environment (workplaces or formal dress occasions). While the small fixed blade is more efficient and dependable, the folding knife can go places the fixed blade cannot.
How can the EDC folding knife be optimized to better suit personal protection carry, access and deployment? First, we must identify specific goals:
If the purpose of carrying a folding knife is for personal protection, streamlining of the accessing and deployment process should take top priority. After all, if we cannot get to our folder and deploy it during a critical incident, then it does us no good to be carrying it. Next, increased concealment is always recommended. It is imperative to keep our lethal force tools hidden until it’s too late for our aggressor.
Unfortunately, many of the folding knives on the market today come with bright silver pocket clips or ride high in the pocket, exposing a large amount of the folder’s pommel. If you think criminals don’t take note of, look for or notice what’s clipped in your pocket, think again. Today’s criminals actively profile potential victims and plan accordingly to negate any advantages you may possess.
The following upgrades require minimal investment and are relatively easy for someone with limited tools or operating in less than ideal environments. Most involve minimal alteration to the knife (perhaps to maintain resale value). One of these upgrades may be useful, or a combination of several working together may help you optimize your personal protection EDC folding knife. Consider each option carefully, especially the self-wave, since it can cause permanent damage to the knife.
Pocket Clip Optimization (Access and Concealment)
One excellent modification to the pocket clip is the addition of 3M outdoor tread tape. This highly textured tape can be adhered to the exterior clip surface to: a) change the color of the clip from bright silver to black and/or b) provide a robust surface to increase friction against the hand during access from the pocket. This simple modification requires a little measuring, cutting with scissors and possibly a hair dryer to help increase the stickiness and adherence to the metal clip. The dark color of the tape blends well with darker pants, aiding in concealment. Be aware that the addition of this tape is not recommended for inside the pocket carry, since the textured tape will grip or adhere to the inside pocket material and subsequently slow down withdrawal from the pocket.
Lanyards and Fobs (Access and Concealment)
The addition of some form of lanyard or fob seems to be a highly individual choice. Some do not like the cosmetic look and fear the chances of this attachment getting hooked onto foreign objects. While these concerns have merit, it is important to note the possible benefits of each modification.
During a close-contact assault, it is often difficult to get the thumb down into the pocket behind the knife for positive access. Depending on the method of attachment and specifically the length, lanyards and fobs can provide more surface area to grasp during this hasty access from the pocket. EDC folding knives can also be carried inside the pocket with only the fob or lanyard exposed. To most untrained observers, this piece of string or braided cord looks much like a keychain or some other common pocket item. This provides excellent concealment of the clip, a telltale sign that you are carrying a knife.
The rapid deployment attributes of the Ernest Emerson wave feature offered on a variety of tactical folding knives are hard to argue with. Yet, if your old faithful EDC knife doesn’t have a wave on it, don’t be distressed. Self-waving a folder is a simple task requiring a dremel tool, eye protection, some patience and caution.
The knife you intend to self-wave must have some type of “hole” opening feature, as commonly seen with many Spyderco and certain Benchmade models like the Griptilian. Make sure when cutting out the hole that sufficient notch remains for hooking onto pockets, waistbands or objects during rapid opening. Please be advised that this permanently alters the folding knife, so be certain it’s what you want to do.
Pocket Holsters (Concealment)
For maximum deep concealment of the EDC folding knife, carrying inside the pocket is commonplace for many. However, accessing from within the pocket requires awareness and preparation for potential attack, two factors that are not always afforded us during reactive criminal assaults. If you decide to EDC your folding knife with this method, consider utilizing a pocket holster for the folder.
An easy to find option is taking a pocket pistol magazine pouch (usually for 9mm) and clipping the folder inside that carrier or simply letting the folder ride in the carrier similarly to how the magazine would. This method provides stability and consistency of carry position and prevents the folder from turning around in the pocket. These carriers also break up the outline of the item being carried, which aids in concealment because it appears that you have a cell phone or wallet in that pocket.
If you are carrying a folding knife for the purposes of personal protection, you owe it to yourself and those you protect to optimize that knife for maximum access, deployment and concealment. Optimization of these processes means more than simple modifications; it means training with that knife. There are very few things we control during a critical incident. One of them is gear and another is our level of training with that gear. Choosing quality gear, optimizing it and training with it frequently will “help it help you.”