Choosing a Defensive Pocket Knife: The #1 Most Important Consideration



Here are two examples of knives that use different deployment systems. The top item is the Hoffner Knives Flatline Grip 3.5-inch Folder FK-S3SBS-FO with a smooth silver blade and olive green handle, $59. Bottom is the Emerson Knife Designs Folder CQC-7K 6034T, with a stainless-steel 3.25-inch-long blade. $60. The Hoffner knife uses the “Pop” system, and the Emerson is a “Wave” system that uses a hook to open the blade.


Carrying a pocket knife is as American as apple pie. We use a pocket knife to open packages, strip wires, even to eat an apple. In today’s world, we also depend on a folding knife to defend our lives, protect our pistol, and with a little training, hold off an aggressive crowd without even firing a shot. So, what should we look for when buying a knife?

There are many things to consider, but if you’re working through a lot of choices, what is the number-one feature that our carry folding knives must have? Without a doubt, the most important factor is deployment.

I’m not talking about a casual opening to eat an apple. I’m talking about deploying the folding knife quickly, and effectively, when you are under full attack and getting your face pummeled, or you are defending your pistol when someone is trying to strip it away. Violence happens to good people every day, and that is a darn good reason to carry a knife every day, with a system that will keep you alive.

Note: Texas & U.S. Law Shield cover the legal use of knives in self-defense as part of your membership.

I am a huge fan of owning a lot of knives, just as I own many pistols. But the pistols that I take for my every-day carry all deploy in the same manner. I carry different knives all the time. My work knife may be different from my evening knife. The knife I carry in my blue jeans is different from the knife I carry in my dress pants. Regardless of their differences, I can assure you that whatever knife I am carrying at any moment will deploy from the pocket the same way as all my other carry knives. The reactive (muscle memory) capability that we must have with our pistol, i.e. grip safety lever, etc., is no more or less important as how we put our knife into action under duress.

If an armed citizen were to carry different knives, each with a different deployment method, it is unlikely that he or she would be able to deploy that knife quickly, and in an adequate manner, in the defense of their lives, particularly when being viciously beat on by a thug.

The primary knife should be carried in the same position, every day, or the hand will not find it in a stressful and violent situation. If you are a right-handed person and carrying a pistol on the right side of your body, then your primary folding knife should be carried on the left side of your body, so that the left hand can deploy the knife in defense of the pistol. It is extremely difficult to defend your pistol with your knife if your knife is on the same side as your pistol, therefore; your primary folder is carried opposite your pistol side.

With this said, all your primary EDC knives should have this same capability to be carried in the same pocket, in the same position, on the same side, and set up to use the same deployment technique. Most tactical pocketknives nowadays have ambidextrous pocket clips for this purpose.

Now that we have established what pocket the knife will be carried in, we must discuss the tactical deployment of the folding knife. It is critical that deployment of the knife from the same pocket is done with the same technique. Not many pocketknives are engineered for a specific system. Once you establish what your system is, you will find that the design of knives will, or will not, work in your system. For example, there are folding knives with a hook on the spine of the blade to catch the lip of the pocket and open the knife when the knife is pulled from the pocket. This system is called the “Wave.” These knives require that the pocket clip be mounted at the butt end of the knife handle so that the blade is carried in the pocket, point up. If you are using this system for your EDC, then practice it, master it, and stick with it. Make sure that all your EDC blades utilize the same opening system so that you can perform it under stress as your plan A.

Keep in mind that plan a does not always work, so you must have a plan B. If you are using a Wave System deployment knife when you’re attacked, and it doesn’t work, without a plan B to open the knife, you will be fodder to the Wolf. There are many knives, with different opening systems such as flippers, buttons, and levers, that will complicate your defense. If you get mixed up, you’re done. If deployment fails and you have no plan B, you’re done.

I am a big fan of simple. That is why I designed my knives, Hoffner folders, to open quickly, and confidently, under duress, with what I call the Hoffner “Pop.” The knife is the system, and the system is the knife. It is easy to learn, easy to master, and easy to maintain. Soccer moms get it in one hour, SWAT guys a little longer. Seriously, it is important to have a system that will not fail and one that you can count on in a sudden violent attack. You can carry different Hoffner folders, but the handles are all the same, the action to open the knives is the same, so the muscle memory is the same to deploy the knife under duress.

The point is, before you start spending a lot of money on different knives, choose a system and buy knives that fit your system and give you the same deployment method every time. It is the single most important consideration when buying a folding knife. Blade steel, blade length, color, texture, and the material, and shape can all vary, but how you deploy it must be consistent. When considering the system that you will use for your EDC defensive folder, consider the grip that the system deploys to in its initial opening. The “Wave” system opens with the blade in the “point forward” position. The “Pop” system opens with the blade in the “point down” position, which I consider a much better defensive position. I will discuss why in a following article.

For now, choose your system wisely, and with a little practice, you will gain mastery of your system, and enjoy confidence in your ability to defend yourself with your EDC folder. You will be able to count on it to do all the things we, as Americans, have always done with with our knives—including defend your life and protect your family. —by Brian Hoffner, Contributor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield blog

Brian Hoffner is a military veteran and has been a law-enforcement officer for four decades. He is also the president of Hoffner Knives, a consultant, and expert witness in the use of force. An experienced and prolific instructor based in Houston, Hoffner trains law-enforcement officers, military, and civilians across the nation in all manners of weapons defense, including knives.

As always, Texas & U.S. Law Shield don’t recommend products, but we do keep our Members advised of products that might be of interest.


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