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By Lynn C. Thompson

In his recent article in Petersen’s Combat Knives magazine, our friend Pat Casico gives a plausible explanation for the meteoric rise of the tactical folder on the knife scene. According to Pat, politically correct commanding officers in our armed forces objected to our service men carrying large, formidable looking sheath knives during the late Desert Storm operation. This lily-livered practice forced enlisted men and front-line officers alike to turn to tactical folders as emergency back-up weapons. Soon, custom knifemakers noticed the increase in demand for self- defense oriented folders. And it wasn’t long after that before magazines jumped on the bandwagon and really began to hype the tactical folder.

Now, almost 5 years later, it seems like the only thing you can read about is the tactical folder. Even the gun magazines have finally caught on as just about every photo layout they print has a tactical folder in it somewhere. However, after all this time and just about a jillion articles, one thing is still missing, and that’s the truth. No one has yet summoned the courage to write an article that adequately portrays the real strengths, and more importantly the weaknesses, of this type of knife. So, hang onto your hats and open your minds as we set off and explore the real truth about tactical folders.


Innocuous. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word innocuous means “Having no ill effect. Harmless: Lacking distinction: Insipid.”

In my opinion the greatest single advantage the tactical folder possesses over the more effective fixed blade sheath knife is its innocuous appearance. You see, a tactical folder, when clipped to the waistband or pocket, is just about invisible to the average person. People just don’t look that closely, and even if they did all they would probably notice is the plastic or steel clip of the knife. These days, with just about everyone carrying some type of beeper, buzzer or cellular phone on their belt, a plastic or steel clip just doesn’t shout the word knife like a leather sheath would.

But, what if someone does notice your tactical folder and makes an inquiry such as, “Is that thing legal?” No problem! It is easy to explain your knife away as merely a handy utility knife you use at work to open boxes and packages. If the person asking is wearing a badge, the same explanation will usually wash since most lockbacks with 4" blades or less are legal to carry in most jurisdictions (check local laws). In California, for example, all folding knives regardless of blade length are legal to carry concealed as long as they are carried in the folded or shut position. The following are several more compelling reasons to carry a tactical folder.


Many people today recognize the need to carry a weapon for self defense on a daily basis but just won’t commit to the discomfort and hassle of carrying a heavy caliber pistol, revolver or Bowie knife. Even a 2", air weight .38 spl revolver at 15 ounces or a double-edged Tai Pan dagger at 10 ounces is just too much of a burden to pack all day long. Enter the tactical folder. Tipping the scales at only 3 to 5 ounces, these knives are truly light as a feather and

can be carried virtually every waking moment without the slightest hint of discomfort.


Another endearing trait of the tactical folder is that it is, without a doubt, one of the most compact weapons money can buy. For example, a typical 4" Tanto point blade will fold up into a package only 5" long by 11/2" wide by 1/2" thick. When you think about it, an object this short, thin and flat is a cinch to conceal and will easily fit in just about any pocket, pouch or pack.

Pocket Clip

I doubt that the tactical folding knife would have ever become a big hit with the military or civilian population if it weren’t for the invention of the pocket clip. Made of steel or plastic, these ingenious clips were invented by Sal Glesser of Spyderco fame in the early 1980s. Now, just about every tactical folder on the market sports a Glesser-inspired clip of some sort. Why? Well, Sal’s pocket clip allows a folding knife to be easily and strongly attached to just about any article of clothing you can think of, from pajamas to bikinis. In fact, the only limit on where you can attach your pocket clip is your imagination, since all it requires is a relatively thin, flat surface for the clip to get a “bite” on. An added benefit of the clip is that it dramatically increases the speed in which one can deploy his tactical folder by offering immediate accessibility without the hassle of fishing into the pocket or unsnapping the flap on a sheath.

One-Handed Opening

The ability to quickly open your tactical folder with one hand via a hole in the blade or thumb stud cannot be overrated. Here’s some food for thought. In an emergency you may not have the use of both hands to open your knife. Can you imagine hanging onto a ladder with one hand and trying to open a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman tool with the other? I’ll bet somehow you would end up using your teeth!

How about a self-defense situation? Can you see the psychological advantage of reaching for your tactical folder and snapping its blade open just like a switchblade? Take it from me. This sight can be very intimidating, especially with our 5" blade Gunsite knife. In fact, some people liken it to pulling out a 12- gauge shotgun and racking the slide. Everyone knows you mean business then!

Limited Effectiveness

As Ross Seyfried once said in Guns and Ammo magazine, “Anything is better than fingernails.” This quote expresses my sentiments exactly. Sure, I’d rather be armed with a Trail Master Bowie or Gurkha Kukri, since I know these big, heavy knives can easily lop off an arm or leg with a single blow. However, if all I have available is a tactical folder, I’m still a heck of a lot better off than if I were totally unarmed. So, let’s take a quick look at what the tactical folder has to offer when the chips are down and there is no time or opportunity to employ a larger weapon or heavy caliber firearm.

Slashing Power

First off, let’s assume we will be armed with a high quality tactical folder with a strong lock and a 4" blade equipped with a serrated edge. Cold Steel has proven on videotape that a knife like this can, when wielded with skill, sever as much as 13/4" of manila

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