Somewhere in the late 1970’s, as the story goes, one of Bob Terzoula’s military customers said “Hey, this knife looks really tactical”. I’m paraphrasing, but it is the story Bob told on Mark of the Maker Podcast in 2019, so I’ll take it to be true. Although Terzoula never came up with the term “tactical knife” to describe his own work, it stuck, and has been used to describe knives using more modern materials like G10, Carbon Fiber and Titanium ever since. 

The only issue I have with the term “Tactical Knife” is that it doesn’t really mean anything. If anything at all, it’s used mostly to describe an aesthetic element of a knife, and has no base in its function. Go to any knife show and you will probably find a drop point blade scooping up the “Best Tactical Fixed Blade” trophy.

This is problematic as it clouds the landscape for new comers into the niche, both as users and as makers. It makes a lot of assumptions about the functionality of a knife based mainly on an aesthetic style, and not its fundamental design features. 

To counter this, for some years I’ve adopted the term “Defensive Knife” to describe what we at Ironside Edge Works make, as our specific niche is to cater to this segment of the market. 

I make no claims of any ownership of this term, and I’m certain we are not the first to use it, but I feel it offers much more clarity and a working definition can be applied to this term as an entire category of knives. 

I propose the definition of a Defensive Knife as the following:

“A knife that has been purpose designed to be concealable, rapidly deployable even with one hand, and deliver potentially lethal damage through stabbing or slashing action; specifically in response to a violent criminal attack, in order to end the attack or aid in escaping.”

Ironside Edge Works

This is important for a few reasons. 

First to understand what attributes a tool must have you need to know what job its going to do. 

Up until now which knife is best for the job of self defence is entirely a matter of opinion, and anyone you ask will almost certainly give you a different one. And this is where it gets tricky, because they are also probably not wrong. 

Self Defence using a lethal force instrument is a complicated affair. There are a high number of variables in the decision making process which can all push you one way or another, and the simple truth is there is no one, single tool that is “the best”. It’s just simply not definable. 

Anyone who makes that claim is selling you snake oil. Buyer beware of a seller using a label like “Worlds most deadly knife”.

There are however a set of variables which are adjusted on a scale, the exact position of which is unique to you and your needs. Factors can include, but are not limited to: The law where you live, your skill level, your physical size/stature, body type, how much time you can dedicate to training in a specific style, your budget, and a few more beside… 

What we can say for sure is that a Defensive knife must be able to accomplish a few things, and do them preferably very well. 

In upcoming articles in this series I will go over the attributes that make a prime example of a Defensive Knife in an attempt to establish a standard for this category

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