What are Tanto Knives?

Hailing from the old Japanese Samurai era, tanto knives are a weapon that proves highly valuable during self-defense. At first glance, you would probably take Tantos just like a normal knife. But not until you get to know its highly detailed forging and folding process will you be convinced of the mightiness that Tantos holds within. 

With that being said, a tanto knife is more than just a simple knife. In fact, it is more like a piece of art! What makes tanto stand out is the subtly different yet potent blade shape that has a unique history behind it and specific use in the front. This guide will tour you through everything essential to know about Tanto knives. 

What Is A Tanto Knife? 

Due to their distinctive blade design, Tanto knives are easier to spot than nearly any other type of knife. Tantos are identified by a non-continuous, almost angular edge that consists of dual cutting planes instead of the curving  flat bottoms of most pocket knives. 

This edge makes up a line out from the handle before running up to the tip. Why such a different mechanism? To showcase a charming appearance, for one, but also a durable and wide point. This is exactly why the Japanese military nobility used Tanto blades for one-on-one combat.

Later after the fixed-blade design was introduced, Tanto was also employed for tactical purposes. Today the shape has gained immense popularity as a pocket defense weapon, all thanks to its small 2.5-inch folding structure. 

Things to Consider When Buying Tanto Knives

Suppose you are in search of the best Tanto knife and don’t know where to begin the hunt. Discussed ahead are some essential tanto knife aspects that will help you make the right decision. Don’t forget to miss on any one of these before you make a hasty decision. 

Built Material 

Blade material is one of the most crucial factors to look for in any defense or survival knife, no matter how intense your use is. The first thing you should be deciding on before heading towards the market is whether you want carbon steel or stainless steel.

As the ability to resist rust is very much pronounced in the name itself, stainless steel is a much more famous choice and is quite cheaper as well. However, stainless steel features less durability than carbon steel and thus loses its charming sharpness much earlier. 

If you are good at maintaining knives, especially against moisture, go with the more durable carbon steel option. Another benefit of this type is that the material can be honed to just about any type of sharpness that you’d like to have. This was all about blades, but your material checking responsibility hasn’t finished yet just here. 

Tanto knives consist of a razor-sharp short blade bundled with a nifty locking mechanism to feature incredible swiftness. However, besides all these features, the knife’s overall material quality should also be super sturdy to withstand heavy usage.

Otherwise, a good blade and a locking mechanism would not perform to their fullest, and you will probably end up with the handle and blade apart. Hence high-quality blade handle is important as well. A good handle also ensures that the user’s grip stays tight. 

Go for the lightweight aluminum options if you are very much concerned about grip and your knife’s ability to withstand harsh temperatures. Otherwise, G-10 material made of fiberglass is also a good choice for handles. 

The corrosion-resistant Titanium, super-strong Micarta, the unbreakable Zytel, and the very robust stainless steel are also popular choices if you can compromise on the added weight. 

Locking Feature 

In combat situations, the last thing you would want to face is an unexpected material failure, for instance, your blade getting stuck while folding. To prevent this from happening, you need to check the locking feature beforehand. 

What’s a tanto knife lock feature? It’s simply the mechanism that keeps the blade intact to the handle and halts it from snapping down onto your fingers accidentally. 

Only a good quality locking feature can ensure smooth back and forth folding, enabling maximum controlled grip over the blade so that you won’t get hurt. Tanto knives rely on several primary lock types. Without further ado, here they are:

Different Tanto Knife Lock Mechanisms

Features 

Liner Lock

  • Usual Knife Locks.

  • Keeps One Section of the liner Angled Towards the Inside of Knife That Comes Back to Original Position Via  Only Manual Force 

Slipjoint

  • Traditional Locking Mechanism 

  • Blade Locked Via Tension In Spring or Flat Bar Instead of Any Visible Lock Piece

  • Designed For Light Use 

Ring Lock

  • Cheap, long-lasting, and easy to use

  • Lock Works When Ring Wrapped Around the Pivot of the Knife is Turned. 

Lever Lock 

  • Locks Blade by a Pin Near the Pivot Bolster

  • Used on Automatic Knives, Such as Switchblades Tantos

Blade Shape and Edge 

Look out for the shape and edge retention of the knife beforehand. While doing this, you are most probably going to face the very famous plain vs. serrated edge controversy, that despite the complexity, should not be skipped as it’s the blade that helps a tanto knife perform the best. 

What makes blade duel even tougher is that there are an equal number of tanto knives that feature plain, partially serrated, or sometimes even fully serrated blades. This is exactly why we’ve highlighted below the pros and cons of each one, so you quickly figure out which edge suits your needs.

Features 

Drawbacks 

Plain Edge

  • Most Common Type 

  • Better at Performing Push Cuts

  • Allows You to Have Better Control, More Accuracy, and Cleaner Cuts When Cutting Along Same Lines

  • Significantly Easier to Sharpen

  • Can Not Perform Pull Cuts

Fully Serrated Edge

  • Slices Objects That Require Sawing Motions Very Efficiently

  • Serrations Give Higher Pressure Per Area For Additional Strength.

  • Cuts Better than Plain Edge Knives

  • Much Clumsier Than Plain Blades

Partially Serrated Edge (Combo Edge)

  • Offers Benefits of Both, Plain and Fully Serrated Edge Types.

  • Multi-Purpose – Allows Making Push Cuts From One Part of Edge and Rigorous Cuts From Other 

  • Inherits Fully Serrated  Knife's Clumsiness

Recommend Products 

Best Tanto Knives 

Built Material 

Blade Type and Edge 

German 4116 Stainless Steel Blade and Krayex Polymer Handle 

7 Inch Fixed Blade with Plain Edge and Tanto Tip

1095 Cro-Van Carbon Steel Blade and Kraton G Handle 

8 Inch Fixed Blade with Partially Serrated Edge (Combo Edge) and Tanto Tip

CPM-S35VN Steel Blade and G-10 Handle 

4 Inch Folding Blade With Plain Edge and Tanto Tip 

Full Tang 3CR13 Steel Blade and Black Wood Handle

5 ½ Inch Fixed Blade With Plain Edge and Tanto Tip 

3CR13 High Chromium Stainless Steel Coated With Black Oxide and Injection Molded Nylon Handle

3.8 Inch Fixed Blade With Plain Edge and Tanto Tip

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Cold Steel Recon Tanto Fixed Blade Knife with Sheath
KA1245-BRK Black Tanto
Cold Steel Recon 1 Series Tactical Folding Knife
Asuka 10 1/4" Modern Japanese Samurai Tanto 3CR13 Steel Full Tang
Kershaw Dune Full Tang Neck Tanto Knife 


1. Cold Steel Recon Tanto Fixed Blade Knife with Sheath


Cold Steel Recon Tanto Fixed Blade Knife with Sheath

With this Tanto Fixed Blade Knife and Sheath by Cold Steel, you will get most of the awesome features a tanto should have. It's great from combating and proves incredible with wood processing tasks such as chopping without the blade breaking and batoning. The excellent plain edge retention aids in quick sharpening as stainless steel isn't as easy to sharpen as it is here. 

PROS



  • Can be used in humid and wet conditions 

  • Razor-sharp 

  • The blade tip is highly durable 


CONS 



  • German 4116 stainless steel isn't as tough as Carbon Steel 



2. KA1245-BRK Black Tanto


KA1245-BRK Black Tanto

Having to defend yourself with a common pocket knife will most likely be ineffective. If you don't want to face that disaster, buy the KA1245-BRK Black Tanto. Its ⅔ plane and ⅓ sharp serrated, super sturdy 1095 Cro-Van Carbon Steel blade makes KA1245-BRK Tanto a perfect option for adding to your survival kit. 

PROS



  • Great for stabbing 

  • Super sturdy Carbon steel blade can be easily sharpened 

  • Durable sheath included 

  • Aesthetic all-black look 


CONS 



  • Non-rust-proof blade 



3. Cold Steel Recon 1 Series Tactical Folding Knife


Cold Steel Recon 1 Series Tactical Folding Knife

If you are a fan of innovative combative knives, this Cold Steel Recon 1 Series Tactical Folding Knife is a perfect option for you. Besides the standard set of features at an affordable price, Recon 1 offers the unique Tri-Ad locking mechanism and black Tuff-Ex finish on the blade for the added value of money. 

PROS



  • Extremely sturdy built 

  • Comes in a large variety of sizes and blade types.  

  • Solid, comfortable handle. 

  • It comes with a nifty sheath


CONS 



  • Difficult to disengage the lock 



4. Asuka 10 1/4" Modern Japanese Samurai Tanto 3CR13 Steel Full Tang


Asuka 10 1-4' Modern Japanese Samurai Tanto 3CR13 Steel Full Tang

Asuka's 10 ¼" modern Japanese samurai tanto is a great option for combatting in the Samurai style. This tanto knife features a modern black wood design and offers a minimalistic feel while also manifesting a charming appearance. 

Asuka's fixed plain blade is made of high-quality 420 stainless steel, which is rust-proof and complemented by the American tanto point style.

PROS



  • Rustproof stainless steel blade construction  

  • Very attractive wooden design 

  • It comes with a sheath


CONS



  • Not as sturdy as Carbon Steel options 



5. Kershaw Dune Full Tang Neck Tanto Knife 


Kershaw Dune Full Tang Neck Tanto Knife 

You will not see a model like this neck knife with a slightly thinner and more elongated mini sword-like design or a straight razor layout. The blade itself is nearly 4 inches tall, and the entire tanto features 7 inches of length. 

However, the biggest plus of the Kershaw Dune Full Tang Neck Tanto Knife is its lightweight structure and the sleep black oxide coating on the blade.

PROS



  • One of the lightest tanto knife 

  • High-Quality sheath 

  • Impressive blade construction 


CONS 



  • Too thin for heavy use 



Bottom Line 

There are multiple knives used for different purposes, but knives with Tanto tips remain one of the best units for self-defense. However, irrespective of what knife you shop for, it is important to look for an option with excellent overall blade structure sharpness, built, and edge type. 

With that being said, we included all the best tanto blade knives to help you out with shopping. As a sharp blade is all that a good knife requires, we made sure each option features the best quality blade available in the market right now. 

If you are confused between the options mentioned above, we recommend buying the very well-built KA1245-BRK Black Tanto. Featuring a half-serrated-half-plain edge blade, the KA1245 it’s an excellent combative solution with an aesthetic black look for added value.