Optimizing Self-Defense Knives For Personal Protection

Top: Author's Benchmade Mini Onslaught out of box. Bottom: With clip modification and lanyard - Best Self Defense Knives

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.

Self Defense Knives Goals

How can the EDC folding knife be optimized to better suit personal protection carry, access and deployment? First, we must identify specific goals:

  • 1. Increased accessibility
  • 2. Efficient and economic deployment
  • 3. Increased concealment
  • 4. A combination of all three

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.

Upgrade Considerations

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.

Meyerco Lambert Shockwave with 3M tape modification to pocket clip to facilitate more positive grip and rapid access - Best Self Defense Knives

Meyerco Lambert Shockwave with 3M tape modification to pocket clip to facilitate more positive grip and rapid access.

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.

Left: Homemade lanyard attached to Benchmade Mini Onslaught. Right: Custom fob attached to Spyderco Perrin PPT - Best Self Defense Knives

Left: Homemade lanyard attached to Benchmade Mini Onslaught. Right: Custom fob attached to Spyderco Perrin PPT.

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.

Left: Self-waved Spyderco Chinook. Right: Benchmade Griptilian - Best Self Defense Knives

Left: Self-waved Spyderco Chinook. Right: Benchmade Griptilian.

Self-waving (Deployment)

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.

This magazine pouch can pull double duty by carrying an EDC folding knife or a pistol mag - Best Self Defense Knives

This magazine pouch can pull double duty by carrying an EDC folding knife or a pistol mag.

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.

Final Thoughts on Self Defense Knives

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.”

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7 Responses to “Optimizing Self-Defense Knives For Personal Protection”

  1. Angela M Wallace

    Need a long blade knife handle for small hands with grip.

  2. UberTorch Tactical Flashlight

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  3. Deb Dodd

    I am a small female, work as a nurse often in shady, areas and late nights early mornings, I've had a small legal knife to carry during work but with "scrubs" having few pockets, I manage to misplace it often any suggestions as to were to carry iit safe or a s all type oh holster?

  4. jeff cardozo

    I usually carry a pair of Gerber A/F folders for EDC. I found the the thumb stud was a little to short for ease of opening. Since the stud is hollow i cut the head of a 8p nail and mounted it into the hole. I now have a "lefty" and a "righty" for my front pants pockets.

  5. steven

    Americans fear police far more than any criminal, so your first job is to make sure that you're adhering to every petty law, ordinance and policy from all cities, counties and every two-bit politician above all else. The look of a knife does make a difference. A big knife or karambit is nothing more than a knife, but it "looks mean" and offers prosecutors a great deal of emotional ammunition with which to attack you and your family. They are great knives and may be technically "legal," but carry them at your own risk. Remember, prosecutors need criminals because without criminals no one needs a prosecutor.

  6. Mike

    Actually, courts do recognize it in the form of allowing legislation to remain in states that defines what a "Dangerous weapon" is. In my state, you can carry anything under 4" concealed and it's not considered a dangerous weapon. If you are in a situation where it is reasonable that you are in fear for your life or life of those around you, you can use your knife and the issue of you carrying one would even come up. A karambit is nothing more than a knife, fixed or folded. Unless your state law specifies otherwise. I frequently go to another state and that state says anything past 3" folding is a dangerous weapon. I can technically carry whatever I want, as I have a CWP and we have reciprocity with the other state, but there are places specified by law that says I can't carry a dangerous weapon there. For that reason, I have a 4" Cold Steel and 3" Cold Steel. The 4" for my state, the 3" for the other state, for those times I go to a bar mainly. This issue comes down to: Know your state law, or that of states you frequently visit. If you live in some commie state like CA or NY or IL, then consider moving if you don't like the laws.

  7. Paul Pawela

    My Two Cents: Understand no Court in the United States recognizes the right for anyone to carry a knife for the purpose of self defense. Law Enforcement Officers can arrest you if they think you are carrying a concealed weapon. Types of knives that will get you arrested quick Karambits, Serrated and Hook blades, folders over 33/4 inches long. Study your law make sure your in compliance and use a knife in self defense only as a last resort,