Best Rescue Knives – 2019 Complete Buyer’s Guide

Finding the best rescue knife might be a challenge. But if you understand how they work and what they’re usually used for, the search process won’t be so difficult. Having a good knife as an EDC tool is something you should have on hand no matter what. We’ve put together a list of ten rescue knives that are considered the best on the market. Before we get to the list, we’ll discuss what rescue knives are best used for and what makes the models on our list the best rescue knives out there.

Comparison Chart of the Best Rescue Knives

Product

Rating

Price

CRKT M16-14ZER Folding Pocket Knife

Best Overall

Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife

Runner-up

Smith & Wesson SWFRS 8in High Carbon S.S. Folding Knife

Best for the Money

Smith & Wesson Border Guard SWBG2TS 10in High Carbon S.S. Folding Knife

Best Tactical Rescue Knife

Spyderco Atlantic Salt Rust Free Serrated Edge Knife

Best Water Rescue Knife

​Victorinox Swiss Army Rescue Tool Pocket Knife with Pouch

Best Folding Rescue Knife

​Spyderco Assist Lightweight Combo Knife

Best from Spyderco

​Gerber Hinderer Combat Life Saver Knife

Best from Gerber

​Kershaw Barricade (8650) Multifunction Rescue Pocket Knife

Best from Kershaw

​SOG Tactical Folding Knife

Best from SOG

What Are The Best Uses for a Rescue Knife?

A rescue knife can be useful in so many ways. Especially when you’re using it in a situation where it will matter the most. Regardless, a rescue knife will be a must-have for everyday use (or just in case you need it). Here’s a list of some of the best uses that will make a rescue knife excel over most knives on the market:

Survival Situations

If you find yourself lost in the woods or if you’re in urgent need to build fire or temporary shelter, using your knife will be essential. Especially when you’ll need to cut branches for the use of kindling for fires or cutting out brush to build out a temporary shelter. Rescue knives should be sharp enough to cut through enough vegetation and branches to ensure you’re using them to your advantage.

Cleaning or Gutting Out Your Fresh Kills

If you’re a hunter, you’ll have to quickly clean out your fresh kills carefully to ensure that the quality of the meat is protected. Failure to do so in a specific amount of time can lead to spoilage. Having a knife that is sharp and able to make precise cuts is exactly what you need to make cleaning out an animal a lot less difficult. 

Self Defense Situations

While the opportunities are usually few and far between, using a knife for self-defense purposes may arise. It will usually depend on the survival situation. While it is less likely that things will go south to a point where resources may be scarce, having a rescue knife handy in your arsenal can go a long way when you’re fending off attackers.

What Makes These the Best of the Year?

The ten models that we’ve chosen were not added on the list at complete random. We added them since they may have a characteristic or feature that makes it stand out. We encourage you to follow a similar pattern while you’re looking for a rescue knife of your own. Here are a few things that make these knives better than the rest:

Most of Them Are Affordable

Yes, most of these knives are affordable. However, it will depend on the budget you may have. If money is tight, you can still get a high-quality rescue knife at an affordable price. Even if it means spending a bit on the higher end of the budget scale, you’re investing in quality and performance. You should not sacrifice quality to save a few dollars.

Sharp Like Nothing Else

If you want a great rescue knife, it should be sharp always. This means having it sharp right out of the box and sharpened regularly. If you need a timeline, sharpening it at least once or twice a month max might do the trick. You should use a sharpening stone or even some kind of lubricant to ensure that the knife will last you a long time.

Tough And Durable Inside And Out

Durability and toughness should matter--period. This means that the blade should be in place with the sheath and not have any wiggle room whatsoever. At the same time, you want it to have a tough hold since you’ll be able to cut through some thickness without the blade ever breaking. 

Quick Take | Best Rescue Knives

Before diving into our review of the best rescue knives, here is a quick take of our top 3 picks:

Review of the Best Rescue Knives

The following is a list of the ten best rescue knives on the market. As you look through each one, it’s important to note the features and characteristics of each one. If you have a good idea of what you want to look for in a knife, these notes will help you determine which one is close enough to your needs and preferences. Now, let’s begin our list by taking a look at the “best overall” rescue knife on the market:

Pros

  • Perfect as an EDC side knife.
  • Super strong and durable. It doesn’t fall apart or break.
  • Super sharp. Can cut through some rough stuff quite easily.
  • The locking system is reliable. It helps keep the blade in place.
  • Seat belt cutter and glass breaker are both excellent added conveniences.

Cons

  • The liner lock should be a little thicker.
  • Sheath of the knife seems a little short. It should be a little longer.

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of recent buyers were satisfied with the knife. They were quick to describe this as easy to use, sharp enough to cut through thick brush, and excellent as an EDC knife due to the extra tools included. One user said he had a hard time finding a knife that he was willing to carry around with him all the time. This knife quickly helped solve that solution.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This knife comes in a few different colors on the sheath. Aside from the looks, it’s a knife that will come in the clutch when you need it the most. Especially when you need to break through glass to get yourself out of a dangerous situation. It might even come in handy if you ever find yourself in a life and death situation involving your vehicle. The seat belt cutter will save you a lot of time (and even your life) in situations like that.

Who Will Use This Most

This knife will certainly be used for EDC purposes. If you’ve never owned a knife for EDC purposes, you don’t know what you’re missing. Yes, this might be a knife that could be best used for beginners or even seasoned survival vets. Either way, if you have a good idea of how this knife works, it will most definitely serve you in the long run.

Bottom Line

The CRKT M16-14EZR Folding Pocket Knife proves itself to be the ultimate rescue knife. If you want something that is rugged and defines what a rescue knife should be like, you’re going to love using this model to your advantage. Take the best care of it and it will surely take care of you.

Pros

  • Excellent as an EDC item.
  • Sharp right out of the box.
  • Super durable construction.
  • The blade is quick to fold and unfold.
  • Tools are reliable and work as advertised.

Cons

  • It may be difficult to open with one hand.
  • Some are not satisfied with this not being made in the USA.
  • The tip may be a little disappointing. Some say it should be more pointed for piercing.

What Recent Buyers Report

This knife was quick to gain the approval of so many new users. They were able to not only use the knife itself to their advantage but also the extra tools that came along with it. One user said that it was the kind of multi-purpose knife that he was looking for. He was also able to use it when he was out hunting and needed something that will allow for quickly cleaning a deer that he had just killed.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This knife has tools like a seat belt cutter, hook cutter, and a nylon sheath that is guaranteed to give you perhaps the best grip possible each time you use it. It’s a tough, reliable knife that goes above and beyond the call of duty when you need it most. Plus, you have a blade that won’t be too hard to deploy or fold back once you’re finished with it.

Who Will Use This Most

This will be a knife that will mostly be used for cleaning out your freshly killed game. At the same time, it will be used in nearly any survival situation that you or someone else may find themselves in. Depending on the situation, you’ll have all your tools handy and ready to go when necessary.

Bottom Line

The Gerber Hinderer Rescue Knife might be the closest thing to a multi-purpose rescue knife. With all kinds of tools at your disposal, they can be used for some menial tasks or to get you out of some kind of pickle. Regardless, carry this with you every day and you are sure to be prepared for what’s next.

Pros

  • Easy to fold and unfold.
  • Affordable for most budgets.
  • Super sturdy blade. Also really sharp right out of the box.
  • Ridiculously lightweight. It doesn’t feel like you’re carrying anything heavy.
  • The glass breaker is hard and reliable. Gets the job done when you need it.

Cons

  • Blade lock may not be as reliable at times.
  • May rust fairly quickly if it’s not taken care of properly.
  • May need to be sharpened a little more often than some knives.

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of recent buyers were quite satisfied with this knife. Most of them have said that they were using this knife for everyday use and survival. One user even had to use the glass breaker one time for locking himself out of his vehicle. Though it set him back a bit financially for a window replacement, he was confident in the glass breaker’s ability.

Why it Stands Out to Us

One of the major things about this knife is the material that the blade is made out of. Carbon steel is by far one of the toughest types of steel on the market. And what better way to use it to create a sharp knife that will have its uses. Aside from the blade, it does come with one of the best survival tools of them all -- a tough as nails, hard as a rock glass breaker that will get you out of any dangerous situation when you need it most.

Who Will Use This Most

Most of the users will likely be beginner level knife users. If you have never used a knife in your life and intend to use one for EDC purposes, there’s a good chance that this rescue knife might be your best bet. It’s sharp, has the right kind of survival tools, and will serve you in the long run provided that you take great care of it.

Bottom Line

The Smith & Wesson SWFRS High Carbon Folding Knife is the best starter rescue knife out there for those who have never owned one. Thankfully, it’s affordable and high quality. That’s the magic combo that you’ll need to look for if money is a bit of an issue.

Pros

  • Excellent for EDC use.
  • Sharp right out of the box.
  • Ambidextrous thumb knobs are easy to use.
  • The inner lock is easy to use for blade security.
  • Super durable. The blade doesn’t wiggle or break so easily.

Cons

  • Might be a little larger than expected.
  • Blade stud might be a little unreliable at times.
  • Belt clip screws are too small. Plus, they strip easily.

What Recent Buyers Report

As expected, new buyers had nothing but great things to say about this knife. One user, in particular, said that it was sharp from the get-go. He used it for a multitude of purposes. Most recently, he used it as a whittling knife for a camping trip where he was cleaning and whittling branches for a fire.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Tactical knives are usually the toughest on the block. Sure enough, this knife is tough as nails and will cut through some pretty thick stuff. As a rescue knife should be, this Smith & Wesson knife does its job as expected as not only the best multi-purpose rescue knife for tactical purposes, but it serves as a handy survival tool in even the direst of situations.

Who Will Use This Most

This will likely be used by many users that are either looking for a tough and sharp knife that will get them through any kind of situation (survival or every day). If a tactical knife is more of your speed, then you’ll have no difficulty considering a knife like this as a possible option.

Bottom Line

The Smith & Wesson Border Guard rescue knife might just be the best rescue knife that you can use in a tactical situation. It’s tough, reliable, and will be up for a lot more challenges than any ordinary pocket knife. Don’t be shocked if it lasts you a good deal of time (as long as you care for it regularly).

Pros

  • Excellent grip ability.
  • Super sharp right out of the box.
  • Excellent for divers and first responders.
  • Super durable. Blade stays in place and doesn’t loosen up.
  • Won’t rust at all. Which makes it excellent for underwater use.

Cons

  • Latching issues may occur.
  • May not be best for general purposes.
  • Some are not satisfied with it not being made in the USA.

What Recent Buyers Report

Most of the new users were divers or emergency responders who utilized this knife for underwater rescues. They said that the blade is tough and can handle being underwater at various depths. One user said that it is the only knife that he uses for underwater exercises. But he is confident that it will reliable when it comes time for an actual rescue situation.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This knife has a blade that is impervious to rust or damage from saltwater. So it’s a pretty good blade that can handle some of the elements that no blade knife can ever survive. The blade is a quick deploying blade, which makes it an additional plus for when time is not really on your side (or on the side of someone who needs rescuing).

Who Will Use This Most

Since it’s an underwater rescue knife, it will only be used by those who typically get involved with marine rescues. So if you’re a diver, first responder, or someone who spends a lot of time out in the water this might be exactly what you want in a rescue knife. Especially when the situation might end up sending you underwater to perform some kind of task (be it rescue or non-rescue related).

Bottom Line

The Spyderco Atlantic Salt Rust Free Serrated Edge Knife is the kind of knife that is built for the sea. And it can cut through stuff quite easily underwater. If you’re always out and about in the seas and need a rescue knife that will come quite in handy when it’s needed, give this puppy a closer look.

Pros

  • Highly visible and stout.
  • It does great as an EDC knife.
  • The blade is easy to fold and unfold.
  • Knife blade and tools are quite durable.
  • Excellent for all kinds of rescue and survival purposes.

Cons

  • It might be a little pricey for some.
  • The knife may not be sharp right out of the box.
  • The linear lock might be a bit of a problem at times.

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of recent buyers were previous owners of the ever-reliable Swiss Army Knives. One user said that he uses this religiously as his EDC knife and has used a Swiss Army knife for the same purpose when he was a scout. Most users concluded that it was durable and all the tools included were easy to unfold and fold.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This knife is the more compact version of the legendary knife that has been reliable for generations. It’s got all the tools that you need in either an EDC or rescue situation. With a knife blade and fifteen different tools, you are more than prepared to take on any task where a specific tool is needed. You might just want to call this your “pocket toolbox”.

Who Will Use This Most

This will make a great multi-purpose knife that will come in handy with the need for the right tool. If you’re looking for a knife that is great for everyday use and want more than just a simple knife blade, this Swiss Army Rescue Tool will cover all your bases.

Bottom Line

The Victorinox Swiss Army Rescue tool may be a smaller version of the Swiss Army Knife. But it will be your best friend in either everyday use or survival situation. With a knife like this, you’ve got all kinds of tools at your disposal for any possible purpose (both EDC and survival).

Pros

  • Super versatile and durable.
  • Easy to fold and unfold the blade.
  • The blade is sharp right out of the box.
  • Excellent for both underwater and general use.
  • The grip is comfortable and ergonomically friendly.

Cons

  • Locking ability is hit or miss sometimes.
  • May rust over time if not taken care of properly.

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new users were happy with the knife. They were impressed with how sharp the blade was upon initial use. They were even more excited when they were not only able to use it in dry environments but also in marine settings like cutting through materials underwater. One user, a first responder, has since called this his “go-to” rescue knife.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This blade is tough and sharp. On top of that, it can handle various environments (including saltwater). Plus, it’s versatile to a point where it can be used underwater and on dry land. Either way, it’s a reliable knife that will get you out of a pickle. The glass breaker at the end of the knife can break most glass in one hit. That alone can get you to easily escape if you’re trapped in a room due to fire or if you’re trying to escape from a vehicle while it’s partially submerged in water.

Who Will Use This Most

This will probably be used for multiple purposes. If you’re a first responder that needs to cut through soft materials like clothing while administering some live-saving procedures, this is the knife that will get the job done. If you’re a diver trying to cut some rope underwater, it will work to your advantage as well.

Bottom Line

The SpyderCo Assist Salt Rescue Knife is proven to be one of the best rescue knives on water and dry land. No matter how and where you use it, it’s a sharp knife that will quickly deploy and cut through a lot of stuff.

Pros

  • Excellent for everyday carry.
  • Super sharp right out of the box.
  • Durable. The blade doesn’t move around or loosen up.
  • Not too light or heavy. Just heavy enough to be a solid rescue knife.
  • The glass breaker is super reliable. It can break through most glass windows.

Cons

  • Ergonomics need improvement.
  • The clip may lose tension over time.
  • Screws may loosen up or come out sometimes.

What Recent Buyers Report

This knife was mostly purchased by first responders and law enforcement officials. They intended to use this for rescue applications. Especially with the seat belt cutter or glass breaker. One user said that both additional features were reliable and work when they’re needed. The knife is sharp and can cut through most materials with ease (including clothing).

Why it Stands Out to Us

The knife is built with a solid stainless steel blade that is hard as a rock, but sharp enough to pierce and cut through most soft materials. Not to be outdone, it’s tough enough to cut through some slightly thicker materials as well. The blade is quick to deploy and quick to put away by the time you’re finished. As expected, it’s a rescue knife that is the epitome of how these kinds of knives should work.

Who Will Use This Most

This will come in handy whether you’re a first responder, law enforcement official, or if you’re someone looking for a tough as nails and a sharp knife for EDC use. This will be for those who will never let a good knife like this go to waste. So if you’re often involved in activities where a rescue knife must be used, this one, in particular, might be your best choice.

Bottom Line

The Gerber Hinderer Combat Life Saver Knife is the backup that first responders will have on hand before the cavalry will get here in a rescue situation. Or you can use it for your own personal EDC use and will be prepared to use it if and when you see yourself in a must survive situation.

Pros

  • Excellent as an EDC tool.
  • The blade is nice and sharp right out of the box.
  • Belt cutter can cut through seat belts fairly quickly.
  • Great for paramedics who have to cut through clothing.
  • The glass breaker is hard as a rock. It can easily break through glass windows.

Cons

  • The blade may chip over time.
  • It may be a little difficult to open at times.
  • May need to be sharpened a bit more frequently than others.

What Recent Buyers Report

Most people are satisfied with this knife. Even one user said that this was his first-ever knife that he’s used. He said the quality is decent and can cut through a lot of materials. Most of the users concluded that the knife is durable and serves a purpose as a reliable survival tool regardless of how you use it.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The knife has the usual tools that you’ll need for almost any situation. If you’re using it for everyday purposes like cutting then it will last you quite some time so long as you take good care of it and keep it sharp. Other than that, the design is quite simple. It’s not complicated or has a lot more tools than it already has. Thus, it proves itself as a really good rescue knife for complete newbies.

Who Will Use This Most

This may be one of the few rescue knives that beginner users will probably rely on. It doesn’t matter if it’s for EDC use or in survival applications. It’s better to be prepared with a reliable rescue knife than to be unprepared without one. If you’re starting with carrying EDC items, you may want to add this to your collection of things to carry around.

Bottom Line

The Kershaw Barricade is a simple, multifunctional rescue knife that anyone can use (whether they have used a rescue knife before or not). Use the right kind of tools and you’ll have a knife that will have your back in any given situation each time you put it to good use.

Pros

  • The knife is sharp right out of the box.
  • Great for on-duty and off-duty EDC use.
  • Can break through ¼ thick tempered glass.
  • Tools are reliable and useful for their intended purpose.
  • Durable construction. The black finish also adds a bit more durability to it.

Cons

  • May be uncomfortable to handle at first.
  • The clip may tend to come off after a while.
  • The blade may be hard to fold out or retract at times.

What Recent Buyers Report

New buyers were quick to call this knife a durable and sharp little unit. It was able to cut through soft materials with ease and can easily break glass. Even one user said that he was able to break through a double-paned window easily while he was taking part in a rescue mission as a firefighter.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Once again, we take a look at a simple design that includes not just a knife, but a window breaker and belt cutter that will help get you out of any dangerous situation. The blade is at a pretty ideal length that can start sharp and stay sharp for a long time. But that doesn’t mean you have to be complacent. You still have to sharpen it from time to time. Plus, it can cut through some pretty rough stuff that no other knife can be able to do easily.

Who Will Use This Most

This would make the perfect knife for those who are first responders and paramedics. It’s got all the tools they need to make a rescue mission a successful one. It can also come in handy if you’re simply just looking for a rescue knife to carry around just in case the unexpected happens. Either way, it’s a knife that is designed perfectly for the use of rescue, survival, and even outdoor uses like cleaning out your game targets while hunting.

Bottom Line

The SOG Tactical Folding Knife is at the right size and has the right kind of sharpness to be an effective knife. If you want something tough all over and sharp right from the jump, you’d be insane to pass up the opportunity to give this knife a closer look.

Benefits of Investing in a Great Rescue Knife

If you choose to invest in a rescue knife, you’ll be able to enjoy some pretty sweet benefits. Not doing so will only mean that you’ll miss out. Here are some of the following things you’ll get to have if you choose to invest in a rescue knife:

You’ll Always be Prepared

You may not always find yourself in a survival situation. But if you are, it’s better to be prepared than not. A knife is essential for every day carry. So having one on you at all times will increase your chances of survival compared to the opposite. There’s a reason why they are called “every day carry” items.

Better Quality Than Most Knives

Some pocket knives can cut good. But quality-wise, they tend to wear down quickly and require some constant sharpening and maintenance. With a rescue knife, you’re using something much tougher. While it will take less time to maintain and sharpen, it will rise above and beyond the call of duty in some applications where a standard pocket knife will fall short.

Can Be Used for Other Situations

Just because they’re called “rescue knives”, doesn’t mean they won’t be useful in some other way. If you’re using it to whittle or clean your recent hunting targets, these knives are sharp and offer precise clean cutting. Plus, they are so sharp that you won’t have to struggle with cutting like with some pocket knives.

Conclusion

The best rescue knife is out there. You’ll just need to find one that will fit your personal needs and preferences. On top of that, it has to be something that you know you can rely on based on quality and performance. Remember, the one you choose will stick with you for the long run (and one day can save your life). Be sure to choose wisely.

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