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:
Cold Steel Bush Ranger Lite Review
Time to face it, fellow knife nerds – We’re living in an era of over-saturation. With so many companies releasing a deluge of new designs, it’s difficult to pluck the hits from the static. But after months of blade malaise, something interesting caught my eye – A cheap, rugged looking, aggressive green monster with a ...
Cold Steel AD-10 Review
Of all the words used to describe Cold Steel knives here on BladeReviews.com, “refined” isn’t at the top of the list. That’s not a metaphor – I literally made a list, and “refined” only appears three times. You’re much more likely to see Cold Steel knives described with adjectives like “strong” (41 times), “large” (39 ...
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. It’s a great affordable every day carry knife and I’m ...
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 belong solidly in the latter camp. Buy the Demko Knives AD-15 at BladeHQ For those of you ...
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 4-Max brings Andrew’s clean design and attention to detail to life. Buy the 4-Max at BladeHQ This isn’t your ...
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 quality. Why? I’m not exactly sure. Realizing that knives from companies like Microtech can cost 5 ...
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 XM-18 would sell for well north of retail. Some were selling for ...
Fantoni Hide Review
Last Updated: August 11, 2019 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 at KnifeArt.com It may be hard to imagine now, but it wasn’t so long ago ...
Ka-Bar Jarosz Folder Review
Last Updated: August 1, 2019 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 a traditional knife company with a lot of fixed blade designs. Buy the ...
Pohl Force Mike One Review
Last Updated: July 31, 2019 I have lusted after the Pohl Force Mike One for years. I wanted one for years. For the uninitiated, Pohl Force is a tactical knife company owned by Dietmar Pohl, a long time knife collector, knife designer, knife enthusiast, and author of books on knives. I have met with Dietmar, and ...
Freeman Outdoor Gear 451 Flipper Review
Last Updated: August 5, 2019 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 go for the sure thing. Most ...
Cold Steel Code 4 Review
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 like the Spartan and Rajah III. Buy the Cold Steel Code 4 at BladeHQ For some reason it has taken ...
DPx Gear HEAT/F Review
Last Updated: August 3, 2019 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 and is well made, ...
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 Ultimate Hunter that made me buy the knife. Buy the Cold Steel Ultimate Hunter at BladeHQ [easyazon_cta ...
Zero Tolerance 0620CF Review
Last Updated: August 3, 2019 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 purchase and review this knife? I slept on it for a ...
Cold Steel Rajah III Review
Last Updated: July 28, 2019 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 the Spartan and XL Voyager. I just didn’t talk openly about it. ...
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 folders with Spyderco which have intrigued me, although never to the point of acquisition. I have always found ...
Buck Marksman Review
Last Updated: December 2, 2019 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 because nothing else in their lineup interested me that much. That is, until I saw the Marksman. Buy the ...
Rick Hinderer Knives XM-18 3.5 Review
Last Updated: June 23, 2019 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, but there is that spirit of pursuit and of course the ascent up a pile of incrementally more expensive knives. ...
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 triple digit price tags. Those knives are cool, and I am sure some are capable of getting work done, ...
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 incremental improvements over the years, but for it’s 25th anniversary CRK really wanted to up ...
Zero Tolerance 0566 Review
Last Updated: July 13, 2019 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 an episode about KAI. I found it fascinating to get inside the head of a prominent representative of a major cutlery ...
Viper Start Review
Last Updated: September 9, 2019 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 has taken me a little while longer to warm up to this interesting Italian brand. Buy ...
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 in a Hinderer XM, and you have what many knife collectors like to call “the holy trinity” of ...
Emerson CQC-13 Review
Last Updated: August 10, 2019 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) you really get the feeling that these knives are distinctly American. ...
Zero Tolerance 0560 Review
Last Updated: July 27, 2019 Finally! A Zero Tolerance 0560 review. It feels like forever ago since the 560 was first announced at the 2011 BLADE Show. Buy the ZT 0560 at BladeHQ Since then I have heard the rumors, ogled the pre-production photos, and even caught a glimpse or two of the knife in some 2012 ...
Benchmade 275 Adamas Review
Last Updated: February 21, 2019 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 tactical knives, but is massively overbuilt in every direction. Designed by custom maker Shane Sibert, a man who strives ...
DPx HEST/F 2.0 Review
Last Updated: March 3, 2018 A hard use frame lock with multi-tool capabilities, the is a unique offering from a small company with an interesting pedigree. The HEST is designed by journalist Robert Young Pelton, who is known for traveling to dangerous places and going ...
Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Review
Last Updated: July 13, 2019 Poll any knife reviewer, knife YouTube Channel, or knife forum, asking what the best Every Day Carry (EDC) knife is, and the Spyderco Paramilitary 2 is going to come up time and time again. It’s a rock star in the EDC world, and for good reason. It’s a form follows function ...
Zero Tolerance 0350 Review
Last Updated: April 5, 2020 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 force to be reckoned with, and I really enjoyed the loud “thwack” of the assisted ...
Cold Steel Recon 1 Review
Last Updated: July 15, 2019 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 “great” one. Cold Steel did just that with their latest version of the Cold Steel Recon 1. The ...
Ontario RAT 1 Review
Last Updated: July 13, 2019 These days, if you want a high value EDC knife, then 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 both hard use and high value, it gets a ...
Benchmade 915 Triage Review
Last Updated: July 28, 2019 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 such a loyal following. One could argue that the average person doesn’t “need” a rescue knife, but do we ...
Spyderco Gayle Bradley C134CF Review
Last Updated: August 26, 2019 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 of these, one for carry and the ...
Zero Tolerance 0550 and 0551 Review
Last Updated: August 3, 2019 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 specializing in Damascus and art knives, but over the past decade has ...
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 popularity for over 60 years. The Cold Steel AK-47 was designed with similar intentions. The original Cold Steel AKs ...
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 wasn’t surprised to learn that the 0300 was a collaboration between Ken Onion and ...
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.
Red, Thanks for the question. You may be able to get Muskrat Man to repair it for you: http://muskratmancustoms.freehomepage.com/ I know he has a pretty sizeable backlog though. Beyond that I really don’t know. Good luck!
Anthony Clark says
What is your opinion of the ruggedness of the Emerson #cqc-7
It’s a liner lock folding knife, so for what it is it’s fairly rugged. I would never substitute it for a fixed blade knife but compared with other folders it will hold up well. I’m not sure if this is a very helpful answer, maybe if you let me know what kind of use you have in mind I can elaborate further.
I wish you would have put the current price that the knife was selling for online and posted this next to the knife so you would have some kind of price reference. There is a big difference between a $200 knife and a $50 knife. A price would reflect whether it’s a knife that a buyer may want and can afford, or doesn’t want and cannot afford.
Excellent point. If I had the technical ability or money to pay someone to integrate that feature I certainly would! I’ll keep it in mind for sure.
Firstly thank you for such comprehensive and objective reviews of important durable folders. Absolutely loved the additional links to other folders compared and listed in text. I am a collector of many high end fixed blades: Busse, Fallkniven and Chris Reeves. My best folder is a Fallkniven U2 and I am now looking for something very special. Strength, longevity, portability (EDC) >=3″ and precision are priorities for me. I am after a good slicer and descent skinner too, so drop point blade and flat grind is favoured. You could say class and beauty are also important priorities, but I’m one for form following function! You taught me a bit about lock up rigidity and protection, materials and basic high end construction. A bit like you tactical is not my thing, but its good to know its there. I was surprised to hear some of the high end knifes don’t open like I expected them to. I am having trouble deciding between the higher end knifes and the spiderco’s, which are great too. I dislike jimpink as it causes hotspots. Weight is important too. I respectfully disagreed with CRK Sebenza 25 Blade fail issue, not acceptable to a hard use folder review- I want to know what my knife is capable of if all hell did break loose, ie survival situation. The CS Recon 1 is a great cheap knife used by the Navy Seals, BUT I saw one break in half in a ballistics torso attack test. I discover a long time ago Military issue is not always the best, but you can take some great principles from them in choosing what IS the best. I also thought you could have considered the Fallkniven PXL ‘Workhorse’ in this collection, not just American marketed knifes…
Thanks for stopping by and for the honest feedback. I have not considered the Fallkniven PXL because it is very expensive and not many people seem too interested in it. Your comment is actually the first suggesting that I check out the knife.
I will say that I recently acquired a U2 and plan on reviewing that in the near future. I felt that would be a good introduction to Fallkniven’s folders, and then perhaps from there I would explore some of their other knives.
Some people says the Fallkniven PXL Maroon Micarta is the best folder in the world.
So I recommend you to check this knife as well.
Thanks for the comment. I would be curious to try out the PXL. At $285+ it is not a cheap knife, but it definitely interests me and I would like to review it at some point.
Cer Peleng says
I was curious why there is no any Chinese made affordable knives? For example Ganzo G704 is one of the best affordable and hard use knife out there less than 25 dollars.
The main reason is because I never got too interested in the very inexpensive Chinese knives. We have reviews a couple SanRenMu blades, and they are capable knives for the money, but it never caught my interest enough to dive into them seriously.
And specifically with Ganzo I’m not a fan of how they have ripped off designs from Benchmade and Spyderco. For example, the G704 is a rip off of the Benchmade 14210. It even has an axis lock. I’d rather not support knives (and companies) like that with my attention.
Oh I like these Chinese knives, its really have high quality. I bought G704-GR last time on Amazon at affordable price. If you also is Ganzo`s fan I advise you this store: https://amzn.to/2Ir2aVr
Should have put the Camillus Beast on the list. Not sure how much it’s serious and how much it was blatant gimmick to sell knives to people, but it’s certainly made very big, heavy, and strong. VG-10 tanto-point, liner lock, composite grips (G-10? Micarta? I forget). I’ve had one for a while and even the “titanium coating” on the blade is still intact. Although I just cannot get an edge I find acceptable on it these days. Maybe it’s the steel type, but it just won’t sharpen for me properly. It’s like the steel is too hard, which is odd, because I gather VG-10 is rather mid-grade stuff. But it had a fine edge when I bought it, and this lasted until I ruined it myself .
Dan Jackson says
Sam, I hadn’t heard of the Camillus Beast until I saw your comments. Looks gimmicky to me and not something I’m particularly interested in reviewing, but I appreciate your comments on the knife.