When choosing the best tanto knife for yourself, it’s important to note not all tanto knives are the same. The purchase of a tanto blade knife is a very personal one and you’ll want to make sure you choose the best and most comfortable fit for your needs.
Traditionally, the blade was used in combat in Japan and were about 10 – 12 inches with a trailing edge. While you won’t be using your tanto knife as a weapon these days, it’s still important to understand their unique features and design.
Today, tanto blades are sharply angled to the tip and are a bit shorter than the original blade style, but maintain the traditional toughness that makes them such a great choice for slicing through strong materials. So, whether you’re breaking down a box that’s been taped to death or scraping a label off with precision, you’ll be sure to find a great use for your knife!
Fixed vs. Folding Tanto Knives
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when making a tanto knife purchase, is whether you want a fixed or folding blade. Like many decisions, there isn’t necessarily a “best option”, it’s entirely up to your personal preference.
Some argue that even the best tanto folding knives aren’t as effective as fixed blades, however it’s often more dependent on the quality of the blade more than the type. Although it is good to note that the best tanto fixed blade knife will be likely be the most durable option.
However, if you’re a fan of pocket knives and would like a tanto blade version, then a tanto folding knife is a great choice!
Reverse Tanto Knife
The reverse tanto knife style is new than the traditional fixed and folding styles, and has many benefits, depending on what you’re looking for.
Instead of a normal tanto angle on the blade, a reverse tanto blade sweeps back towards the spine of the knife. The front angle is also not typically sharpened, this maintains consistency in thickness and adds strength to the blade.
One potential drawback of the reverse tanto style is that the tip of the blade is thinner than traditional styles, meaning it may not pierce materials as easily as a fixed or folding style. What it lacks in brute strength however, it makes up for in precision.
1. CRKT Minimalist Tanto Knife
In our opinion, the best tanto pocket knife is this one from CRKT, particularly if you’re looking for something compact and portable. It doesn’t have a very long blade, but it fits in your pocket (or bag) easily and is very strong, making it great to whip out on the job. It’s also very lightweight, making it the perfect portable option.
The best part of this knife however, is the comfortable design, with three circular finger molds for a great grip, you’ll never tire of holding this tanto knife! This ensures you’ll never have a nasty slip up when cutting into difficult material or breaking down a box!
It comes with a reinforced glass sheath, ensuring its safety on the road or in the tool box. This is definitely one of the best tanto knives out there!
- Ergonomic grip
- Easy maintenance
- No thumb ridge
- Shorter blade
2. SOG Tanto Folding Knife
Based on our research, this blade from SOG is the best folding tanto knife and a great choice if you prefer this type of model. It has the piercing power of a fixed blade, but in a knife that folds and easily fits in your pocket or small tool bag.
This blade comes complete with a high quality blade lock, to ensure safety and no accidental closures when cutting through particularly tough material! Due to the tips great alignment, you’ll have maximum control and smooth handling of the blade.
The best feature however, is the grooved handle, which can be used to cut cord, line or anything else you may encounter on a hunting or sporting trip. You won’t want to miss out on one of the best tanto folding knives out there, get yours today.
- Strong grip
- Thumb ridge
- Grooved handle
- Finish comes off
- Assisted opening a bit tricky
3. Honshu United Tanto Knife
This large knife definitely isn’t pocket sized, but what it lacks in portability, it makes up for in efficiency and strength. The 10+ inch blade is grooved down the side, with an easy-grip handle that won’t slip during use.
The long blade is also thick, which will likely make this one of your strongest knife options, no matter the task. It’s also very lightweight despite its size and is compatible with both left and right handed users. This is a great knife to take hunting and/or fishing, as the design is perfect for scraping or de-boning your catch.
It also comes with a high-quality sheath, to keep you and the blade safe in transport. This is the perfect outdoor knife and ensures you others won’t get ruined by animals or the elements, it’s also might be the best tanto knife at this price range, so get yours today!
- Massive 10+ inch blade
- Left/Right Compatible
- Large and bulky
- Tang tapers too much
4. KA1245-BRK Tanto Knife
This knife may resemble popular Japanese traditional styles of the tanto knife, but rest assured it is 100% made in the U.S. The design is perfect for piercing, puncturing and slicing through the most resistant material, making it a great buy.
The tip is extra-thick, making it able to handle almost anything with ease and the 8 inch blade is large enough to be effective, without being too intimidating. It’s also fairly easy to sharpen, even as a larger blade and comes with a serrated portion, great for cutting cord or other line equipment.
The hand-crafted handle easily molds to any hand and provides great grip in use. It’s a great outdoor sporting trip knife, or general tool to keep in the garage and at a great value as well!
- Serrated portion
- Easy to sharpen
- Not a great sheath
- Grip not very comfy
5. Grand Way Paracord Tanto Knife
This extremely affordable fixed Japanese-style tanto knife is the perfect choice for outdoors and sporting enthusiasts from all backgrounds. The construction makes it an ideal choice no matter what the task; chopping, slicing, cutting etc., with the perfect amount of pressure for maximum efficiency.
The stainless steel material and matte finish make this a very durable option, not to mention the protection against corrosion that means you won’t need to sharpen as often as other models. A very practical and economic choice indeed.
What’s extra special about this model is that it comes with a safe sheath and lanyard so it can hang from any tool belt. Survival ebook also included, all for a great price, making it the perfect gift option.
- Corrosion resistant
- A bit weak
- Not pocket sized
6. Cold Steel Recon Tanto Knife
This tanto blade knife may be a bit pricier than other options, but it’s definitely worth it if you’re looking for a high-quality knife. The reinforced point, deemed “American style” is the ideal option for piercing and cutting through the most durable of materials.
The 7 inch blade is a practical size, large enough to be effective, without being cumbersome in size. While it won’t fit in your pocket, it will easily fit in any backpack or portable tool kit. The steel material retains sharpness for an extended period and the handle features an easy-grip style perfect for anyone.
This is also the knife preferred by many Vets, SWAT teams and other tactical groups, ensuring it is of the highest quality! If you’re after the best tanto knife and price isn’t an issue, this might be the one for you.
- Decent size
- Retains sharpness
- Easy grip
7. Cold Steel Leatherneck Tanto Knife
This massive Cold Steel tanto knife is a great choice for anyone in the market, 12 inches in total length, a 7 inch blade and a long, 5 inch handle with a great grip. The double guard on the grip ensures your hand won’t slip down the long blade while in use and the end is capped in steel, which can also stand-in for a hammer in a pinch.
As with many models from this company, this is their signature “American tanto” style, complete with a reinforced tip for extra strength. The Black powder coating gives it a nice look, that will match with any gear you already have.
It comes with an ultra safe sheath to protect the strong blade, as well as yourself and a comfortable grip that won’t tire hands.
- Comfy grip
- Reinforced tip
- Great value
- Weaker sheath
- A bit large
8. Smith & Wesson High Carbon Tanto Knife
This is one of the largest tanto knifes in this guide, however the blade is a bit average. The overall length is over 10.5 inches and the blade length is just roughly half of that at 5.2 inches, but there is a good reason for this! This ensures a no-slip product and the ability to apply the perfect amount of pressure when in use.
Constructed out of high quality carbon material, this knife will outlast most others and if not, never fear as it comes with lifetime warranty.
This is truly a multi-purpose knife that is used by people from all walks of life, whether it’s first responders, hunters or survivalists, you’ll find this knife meets all your needs. It’s also compatible with both left-handed and right-handed users, making it a well-rounded tool.
- No slip grip
- Left and right handed compatible
- Lifetime warranty
- Large and bulky
- Awkward sheath
Are tanto blades hard to sharpen?
No, in our experience, tanto blades are not difficult to sharpen. This is because all it requires is a knife sharpener just like any other blade. However, note if your tanto knife has a serrated portion, you’ll need to use an angled steel rod.
You’ll also want to use careful technique, as the double edged design of tanto blades means more precision required as you don’t want to round the point where the edge switches. Make sure to spend a bit extra time on the tip as well, as you’ll want it as sharp as possible for piercing and cutting into tough materials.
What is a tanto blade knife used for?
In our opinion, the tanto blade knife has many uses, beyond just the traditional tactical reasons. This is because tanto blades are actually quite versatile. It’s true that tanto knives aren’t always the best choice for cutting, it all depends on the situation. For example, you probably wouldn’t want to use one for slicing meat in the kitchen or mincing vegetables.
However, if you want something strong for piercing tough materials such as removing ugly upholstery on a chair, cutting carpet samples or a difficult box to break down, a tanto blade is your best bet.
They’re also great for precise tasks such as scraping labels off of jars or stickers off a surface they shouldn’t be on. Overall, it’s a great tool to have in any garage or tool kit.
How to care for a tanto knife?
As with any knife, the majority of maintenance for a tanto knife will be keeping it sharp, which is covered above. However, you’ll also want to make sure you wipe the blade clean after each use at a minimum. Best practice is every few uses to properly clean the blade with warm water and soap, keeping in mind the material so you don’t damage it with the wrong product.
You’ll also want to make sure it’s stored in a safe place where it will stay dry and undamaged. This typically means keeping it in the sheath and then storing it in a case, secure tool kit or bag in the garage or workshop and away from kids and pets.
Love knives? Why not check out our writeup of best stiletto knives too?