Hard use folders represent the toughest folding knives on the market. We are talking about stout tips built for prying, over-built locks designed to handle chopping and batoning, and rugged handles to hold it all together. These knives are designed to take a beating and are often targeted to military and police applications.
Naturally, they have garnered a lot of interest from collectors of tactical knives as well. These high testosterone blades are designed to push the capabilities of a folding knife, and they only appear to be getting more and more popular. I have a growing collection of hard use folder reviews. Feel free to let me know what you think of these style of knives in the comments section – I know they can be fairly polarizing and controversial.
Hard Use Folder Reviews
Here is a collection of all our hard use folder reviews to date:
- ESEE Avispa Review
I reviewed the ESEE Zancudo back in 2014. I gave it high marks, and since then it has gone on to be my pick for the best budget EDC knife. I stand by that recommendation, and still own and use the Zancudo to this day. ... continue reading
- Demko Knives AD-15 MG Review
There are knives that elicit feelings of elegance and delicate class, and then there are knives that make you feel like you’re carrying a tool that can handle damn near any task that you throw at it. Demko Knives be ... continue reading
- Cold Steel 4-Max Review
This is a knife that requires little in the way of an introduction. The Cold Steel 4-Max is arguably the most overbuilt hard use folding knife of all time. Modeled after designer Andrew Demko's custom 4-Max folder the ... continue reading
- Spyderco Bradley Folder 2 Review
I’ve set some odd goals throughout my life. Goals that are a personal measure of my own success. One of those goals was to carry a Spyderco as an EDC knife. I always associated Spyderco with expensive and high quali ... continue reading
- Hinderer MP-1 Review
It seems like every time I write a review of a Hinderer knife I can't help but open with a commentary on the state of the Hinderer market. Maybe it's the finance degree talking. At any rate, a few years ago a Hinderer ... continue reading
- Fantoni Hide Review
Author’s Note: I wrote this introduction before I saw Dan’s review of the Pohl Force Mike One. Suffice to say that Andrew Gene has long been a scourge on the wallets of knife collectors. Buy the Fantoni Hide ... continue reading
- Ka-Bar Jarosz Folder Review
A couple things drew me to the Ka-Bar Jarosz Folder. First, Ka-Bar doesn't release a lot of folding knives. They are a knife company best known for their classic USMC combat knife, and have a reputation for being ... continue reading
- Pohl Force Mike One Review
I have lusted after the Pohl Force Mike One for years. I wanted one ever since Andrew acquired and reviewed his in 2013. For the uninitiated, Pohl Force is a tactical knife company owned by Dietmar Pohl, a long time k ... continue reading
- Freeman Outdoor Gear 451 Flipper Review
Few of us have the money to shell out hundreds of dollars for every knife we think we might like. We have to cull the herd. Maybe we splash out for a promising ‘Maybe’ every once in a while, but 80% of the time we ... continue reading
- Cold Steel Code 4 Spear Point in CTS-XHP
I have slowly worked my way through most of Cold Steel's standard folders. I have reviewed the Voyager series, the Recon 1s, the American Lawman (probably my favorite), and even some of their more colorful offerings l ... continue reading
- DPx Gear HEAT/F Review
It has been a long time since I have examined a DPx Gear product. You may recall a review done on the HEST back in 2012. This was DPx's first effort, and is the knife that put them on the map. The HEST is a solid tool ... continue reading
- Cold Steel Ultimate Hunter Review
You won't find too many hunting knife reviews on this website. The reason is because I am not much of a hunter. But despite being advertised as a hunting knife, there was something intriguing about the Cold Steel Ulti ... continue reading
- Zero Tolerance 0620CF Review
I have given Zero Tolerance over the past year. So I actually had to pause and think when my pre-order for the 0620CF popped into my inbox. I try to feature a variety of knives from different manufacturers. Would I pu ... continue reading
- Cold Steel Rajah III Review
I almost entitled this review "confessions of a mall ninja". Yup, your buddy Dan has something of a dirty secret: I'm a fan of ridiculous knives from Cold Steel. You may have guessed as much after reading reviews of t ... continue reading
- Spyderco Tuff Review
Ed Schempp's designs are something of an acquired taste. The man isn't afraid to try new things, and his "function over form" design philosophy aligns nicely with Spyderco's credo. He has worked on a series of ethnic ... continue reading
- Buck Marksman Review
Last Updated: October 8, 2017 You may have noticed a lack of reviews of Buck knives. I have nothing against Buck. I reviewed the Vantage a couple years back, and haven't gotten around to reviewing anything else becau ... continue reading
- Rick Hinderer Knives XM-18 3.5 Review
Last Updated: 09/27/2017 In the past I have compared knife collecting to mountain climbing. Certainly there isn't the element of physical accomplishment, as the only thing that really gets a workout is your wallet, b ... continue reading
- Cold Steel American Lawman Review
Last Updated: March 9, 2018 When I hear the words "hard use folder" it's often accompanied by a mental image of dollar signs. For whatever reason, we have equated hard working blades with titanium, super steel, and t ... continue reading
- Chris Reeve Knives Sebenza 25 Review
How do you improve on perfection? That may have been a question asked by the engineers at Chris Reeve when they approached the Sebenza 25. I wasn't in the room, so I really have no idea. The Sebenza has received incre ... continue reading
- Zero Tolerance 0566 Review
Last Updated: September 22,2017 I have recently been making regular appearances on the GearGeeksLive podcast with Tony and Andrew. Tony and I recently had Thomas Welk from KAI (Kershaw/Zero Tolerance) on the air for ... continue reading
- Viper Start Review
I got my first introduction to Viper at the 2013 Blade Show in Atlanta this past summer. A couple of my favorite reviewers, the EdgeObserver and Stefan Schmalhaus, have sampled Viper's offerings quite extensively. It ... continue reading
- Strider SnG Review
Last Updated: February 13, 2018 For many knife collectors the Strider SnG is a holy grail of sorts. Much like the Chris Reeve Sebenza, the Strider SnG represents the top of the line for production grade folders. Toss ... continue reading
- Emerson CQC-13 Review
Emerson is one of the most American knife companies I can think of. Their blades are 100% made in the USA with American made materials, and when you thumb through one of their catalogs (or the pages of their website) ... continue reading
- Zero Tolerance 0560 Review
Finally! A Zero Tolerance 0560 review. It feels like forever ago since the 560 was first announced at the 2011 BLADE Show. Since then I have heard the rumors, ogled the pre-production photos, and even caught a glimpse ... continue reading
- Benchmade 275 Adamas Review
Last Updated: February 21, 2017 Designed as a tool for law enforcement and military personnel, the 275 Adamas could be the epitome of a hard use folder. The 275 shares the classic lines of many "normal" folding tacti ... continue reading
- DPx HEST/F 2.0 Review
Last Updated: March 3, 2018 A hard use frame lock with multi-tool capabilities, the [easyazon_link asin="B006QFBOG2" locale="US" new_window="default" nofollow="default" tag="brdfkdfk-20" add_to_cart="default" cloakin ... continue reading
- Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Review
Last Updated: March 31, 2018 Poll any knife reviewer, knife YouTube Channel, knife forum or Reddit channel on what the best Every Day Carry (EDC) knife is, and the Spyderco Paramilitary 2 is going to come up time and ... continue reading
- Zero Tolerance 0350 Review
Last Updated: November 22, 2016 My Zero Tolerance 0300 got a lot of looks when I carried it around. At over 9" long and with a weight of 8.6 ounces, it definitely raised some eyebrows. The excellent S30V blade was a ... continue reading
- Cold Steel Recon 1 Review
Last Updated: September 24, 2017 I love it when knife companies refine their existing designs. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for new and exciting models, but I'm almost more excited when a "good" knife turns into a "gr ... continue reading
- Ontario RAT 1 Review
These days if you want a high value EDC knife, there are plenty of options. Kershaw and Spyderco make some great knives in the $30 and under category that are easy choices for EDC. But if you want something that is bo ... continue reading
- Benchmade 915 Triage Review
UPDATED: 07/01/2016 Rescue knives often go unnoticed in the knife community. There are large groups of enthusiasts gathered around tactical, survival, and EDC knives, but I have yet to see the rescue knife develop su ... continue reading
- Spyderco Gayle Bradley C134CF Review
The Spyderco Gayle Bradley (C134CF) is one of those knives that was built for use and abuse, but is so nice I wasn't sure if I could bring myself to really scuff it up. I guess the only reasonable answer is to buy two ... continue reading
- Zero Tolerance 0550 and 0551 Review
Today I am taking a look at the Zero Tolerance 0550, a special collaboration between ZT and Rick Hinderer of Hinderer Knives. Rick has been making knives and self defense weapons for over 20 years. He started out spe ... continue reading
- Cold Steel AK-47 Review
Last Updated: February 22, 2018 The AK-47 rifle was designed by Russian Gunsmith Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1946. These guns were designed to be simple and rugged, and for these reasons the AK-47 design has enjoyed much ... continue reading
- Zero Tolerance 0300 Review
When Zero Tolerance first came on the scene the 0300 is one of their knives that really caught my eye. The graceful curves reminded me of some deep sea mammal while the construction reminded me of a semi truck. So I w ... continue reading
Best Hard Use Folding Knives
Here is a collection of some of the best hard use folding knives on Amazon. There are other brands (and plenty of reviews found above), but if you are looking for a collection of some of the best hard use folders this is a good place to start.
Considerations When Purchasing a Hard Use Folder
OK, so you have made the decision to purchase a hard use folding knife, but haven’t decided on much else beyond that. Where to begin? Lets go through some of the considerations when buying a knife that is designed to take some punishment.
The first thing you have to ask is “What am I going to use this knife for?” Obviously we are buying the knife for “hard use” but what does that even mean? Are we going to be doing dirty jobs that require a knife that is easy to clean, a strong lock for light chopping or possibly even batoning through wood? Pulling staples? The term “hard use knife” is vague and after blogging about knives for almost a decade I still don’t fully understand it.
With that said, I think if you are buying a folding knife, it really needs to be used just for cutting. Anything else is asking for problems and might be labeled “abuse” in certain circles. Digging, prying, batoning, all of that crazy shit is going to potentially compromise your folder. Unless you get something unstoppable like the Cold Steel 4Max. But at that point you are toting around a 10 ounce $400 folding knife.
If you are looking for something that will take some aggressive cutting and light abuse, then that’s important to know, as you don’t necessarily need a 4Max to do that.
Personally, I am from the school of thought where if I need a hammer, I’m going to bring a hammer. If I need a pry bar, I’m going to use a pry bar. I don’t use my nice folding knives to drive screws or split open an oak log. That’s just me. It’s not a replacement for the right tool for the job. But some hard use folders can handle batoning and light prying. Good to know if you find yourself in an emergency situation or want something that can take the punishment.
Price is always a touchy subject, but it is an important one. It all comes down to the almighty dollar. Personally, I’ve sampled all sorts of knives, from $10 gas station knives, to knives costing the better part of a thousand dollars. Personally, for a hard use knife I like a relatively inexpensive option. Say $100 or less. I have plenty of these kinds of user knives in my collection, and won’t hesitate to drag them under my car or use them on a home improvement project. Still, for especially dirty jobs I might reach for a retractable razor. Blasphemy, I know.
Another obvious consideration when selecting a hard use knife is the blade steel. Personally, I want something that holds a decent edge but is also easy to sharpen. The same kind of steel I’d be seeking out in a quality EDC knife. While ease of sharpening and edge retention are natural considerations, perhaps you are willing to sacrifice in other areas, like corrosion resistance. This is where a steel like M4 or 3V could come in handy. These are tough steels, but stain more easily than a conventional stainless.
Further down the ladder you venture in to D2. D2 isn’t a bad steel, and we are seeing it on more budget knives these days, but it can be tough to sharpen based on the heat treat. And then towards the bottom you get stuff like AUS8 and 8Cr13MoV. Decent budget blade steel, and not a bad choice for a beater knife or sub $40 option, but not my top pick.
For my money a good all round steel like 154CM isn’t a bad choice. It may chip under super hard use, but if you are using the knife responsibly you should be OK with it. In that vein S35VN, M390, and CTS-XHP are all good top tier EDC blade steels that can handle a little hard use.